Never Too Old for Video Games?

By Staff Writer

Video games and computer games are heavily marketed toward teens and young adults, but recent studies show the average video game addict is 35 years old. The research also shows that compulsive gamers are fatter and more depressed than the general population.

The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emory University and Andrews University, analyzed data from more than 500 adults ranging in age from 19 to 90 in the Seattle-Tacoma area. The researchers found significant correlations between playing video and computer games and a variety of health risks:

  • Female gamers reported greater depression and lower health status than non-players.
  • Male gamers reported higher body mass index and more Internet usage than non-players.
  • Both male and female gamers demonstrated greater reliance on the Internet for social support.

Like teen video game addicts, adult gamers were more likely to be socially withdrawn, sacrificing real-life social activities to play video games, and were more likely to lead a sedentary lifestyle and be overweight.

Teen Gamers vs. Adult Gamers

According to a 2007 Pew Internet & American Life Project Survey, more than half (53 percent) of American adults play video games, and about one in five adults (21%) play every day or almost every day. Adolescents and young adults tend to dominate the gaming scene, but adults tend to be more avid players, playing more frequently and thus sometimes falling prey to video game addiction.

These findings were echoed in a 2008 consumer survey from Entertainment Software Association, which found that 75 percent of video game players are over the age of 18, and the average game player is 35 years old.

Although adults tend to have more social and professional responsibilities than teens, roughly one-third of adult gamers still find time to spend 10 hours or more playing video games every week compared to 11 percent of teens, according to a report by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

The statistics show that adults are less likely than teens to play online games or on video game consoles, preferring instead to play on the computer, and are less attracted to massive multiplayer online games (MMOGs) like World of Warcraft than teens.

Men aren’t the only ones getting hooked on video games. The CEA survey found female gamers outnumber male gamers in the 25-34 age category.

Symptoms of Video Game Addiction in Adults

Although most of us picture a teenage boy at the helm of the video game console, the research shows that many adults enjoy playing video games just as much as teens. As a result, some adults will find themselves addicted to gaming.

Here are a few warning signs of video game addiction in adults:

  • Obsession or preoccupation with computer games or playing video games
  • Neglecting personal relationships to spend more time playing video games
  • Difficulty keeping up with personal or professional responsibilities due to increased play time (e.g., calling in sick to play your favorite game)
  • Lying to cover up your computer or video game use (e.g., playing late at night, spending less time with a spouse or loved one to play games)
  • Feeling angry, irritable or depressed when not playing video games
  • Losing interest in other leisure activities you once enjoyed, choosing to spend all of your free time playing computer games
  • Becoming so enthralled in the game that you forget to eat, sleep or bathe
  • Physical ailments such as backaches, dry eyes, headaches or carpal tunnel from playing video games

Treating Video Game Addiction

Video game addiction affects teens and adults all over the world, and though the U.S. has been slower than countries like China, South Korea and the Netherlands to develop gaming addiction treatment programs, effective interventions are now available all over the country.

For adolescents and young adults, wilderness therapy programs and residential treatment centers tend to be the most effective at pulling youth away from the computer or video game console and helping them reconnect with friends, family and healthy pastimes.

Adults suffering from video game addiction often benefit from 12-Step addiction treatment programs and centers designed to treat a wide range of compulsive behaviors.

Adults have a lot to lose when video games begin to consume their lives. Getting help will ensure that you not only come back to reality but that you create a reality that you’re happy to be in.

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