Top 7 Health Risks of Video Game

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August 30, 2015
By Joseph Strongoli,
Featured Columnist

Part of the appeal of video games is that they allow gamers to live out a
fantasy, to take risks, act boldly, and to do things they could not do in
the real world, without fear of real world consequences. After all, there’
s always the restart button on your game console, to start the game
over when things go awry. But what happens when the world of
fantasy, action, intrigue, and danger spills out of the screen and into
the real world? Can video games actually be dangerous?

Screen Time

Video games have taken the world by storm in the last 30 years, with
annual sales in the United States at more than $11 billion, according to
a 2013 study at Middlemore Hospital in New Zealand.  And gaming isn’t
just for the young anymore; the age of gamers has also increased, to
the point where in 2012, 37% of American gamers were older than 36
years of age.

And it isn’t just in the US. The 2012 ISFE Video Games in Europe
Consumer Study found that 40% of the UK population indulges, of
which 24% play at least weekly. In the UK, video games were played
for two hours or more a day by 55% of boys and 20% of girls in 2010.
On the very extreme end of the spectrum, 7% of teens in the UK play
more than 30 hours of computer games a week.

Between video games, TV, and computer surfing, screens of one kind
or another occupy youth for 50 hours a week on average, a 2010
Kaiser Family Foundation survey found.

“It’s a full-time job plus 10 hours of overtime, and that’s the average,”
says Douglas Gentile, a psychologist and director of the Media Research
Lab at Iowa State University. Video games consumed nine hours a
week for teens according to the Kaiser report, while a Harris Poll found
that an additional 13 hours a week were spent on the computer. It has
been estimated that children in the United States are spending 25% of
their waking hours watching television and playing video games.

We have become a world of serious gamers. But what is all this gaming
doing to our health? What are the health risks of marathon video game

Deadly Fantasy Made Reality

In 2012 alone, the following cases were reported. In Columbus, OH, a
15 year-old boy collapsed after playing “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
3” for five days straight. He was rushed to the hospital with severe

Earlier that year, a Taiwanese teenager was found dead after sitting for
40 hours straight in an internet cafe, playing “Diablo 3”. He died from a
heart attack caused by a blood clot that formed during his gaming

Finally, a 20-year old man from the UK died from a blood clot after a 12-
hour Xbox session.

What kind of risks are we putting ourselves in when we binge on video-
games? Enough risk apparently, that President Obama named video
games as a health concern, indicating that they are a key factor in
unhealthy lifestyles in a 2009 speech to the American Medical

Here, based on medical studies, are the top 7 risks of too much gaming:

Repetitive Strain Injury: Playstation Thumb, Nintendinitis, and
acute Wiitis

Repetitive strain injury is a common occupational hazard that results
from the wear and tear of constantly repeating the same motions, day
in and day out. This kind of injury is usually found among construction
workers, farmers, or other manual laborers, and isn’t usually associated
with children. However, a 2000 study at the Royal Aberdeen’s Children’
s Hospital in Scotland found that the escalating use of computers and
video games led to hand and wrist problems which the researchers
dubbed nintendonitis, due to the repetitive motions of button-mashing
and wrist and hand postures. A 2004 study at University College
London found that Playstation thumb, which features numbness and
blisters caused by friction between the thumb and controller from rapid
game play, also caused point-like hemorrhages and finger nail loss.


Visually evoked seizures have been reported for nearly 2,000 years.  
However, a 2007 study at the University of Alabama found that seizure
activity has increased in modern times, due to the advent of new
technologies used for television, computers, and specifically, video

Video games pose an especially high risk for causing seizures, due to
their often repetitive blinking, strobe-like lights and sounds.  Patients of
epilepsy should take special take when playing video games.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in
one or more of the deep veins in your body. This could result in a
deadly stroke or heart attack if the clot were to reach your brain or

The risk for blood clots is increased during sedentary periods, as blood
pools and coagulates due to poor circulation and the pull of gravity.
The same 2013 study from Middlemore Hospital in New Zealand as
above found that extended gaming sessions, just like long-distance air
travel or prolonged sitting for work increase the risk for deep vein

The study found that being seated for at least 10 hours in a 24-hr
period and for at least 2 hours at a time without getting up, was
associated with a 2.8 fold increased risk of deep vein thrombosis.

The risk is worse, however, with violent video games: “previous
research has shown an increase in blood pressure and heart rate with
exposure to violent video games as part of the physiological stress
response, suggesting an association between acute psychological stress
and a hypercoagulable state. The prolonged period of mental stress
associated with video gaming could further increase the risk of venous
thrombosis in the setting of seated immobility.”

Learning Problems

A 2010 study at Denison University examined two groups of boys who
never owned gaming consoles.

They gave one group a console immediately, and withheld video games
from the other group for four months.

The group that received the video games first had more learning
problems in the class room and scored significantly lower in reading
and writing than the other boys.

While the gamers didn't show significant behavioral problems, their
teachers did report setbacks in academic skills, such as writing and
spelling. The authors hypothesize that the learning problems result
from the lack of after-school activities with educational value: "The
amount of time you have is zero sum, so if you spend your time playing
video games you can't spend your time doing other things."

Aggressive, Violent Behavior and Depression

A 2010 study at Iowa State University found that exposure to violent
video games caused an increase in aggressive thoughts and behavior,
and decreased empathy and pro-social behavior in youths.

Author Bernard Cesarone, who wrote a book on video game violence,
says that “students who had played a violent virtual reality game had a
higher heart rate, reported more dizziness and nausea, and exhibited
more aggressive thoughts in a post-test than those who had played a
nonviolent game.”

A 2010 study at the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony
in Hanover, Germany also found that video-game dependency was
accompanied by increased levels of psychological and social stress in
the form of lower school achievement, increased truancy, reduced sleep
time, limited leisure activities, and increased thoughts of committing

Vision Problems

Too much screen staring can cause vision problems. Extensive gaming
can cause eye strain, according to a 2002 study at New York University.

The cornea, the pupil, and iris are not equipped to handle long sessions
of screen watching, which can lead to drying out of the eyes and strain
from sitting too close, focusing on the same object for extended
periods of time, and from extended exposure to bright lights of the
screen. Focusing on the screen for long periods can also cause
headaches, dizziness, and vomiting.


Because video games lead to a sedentary lifestyle, replacing physical
activity with extended periods of couch sitting, it isn’t difficult to see
the connection between video games and and

The same 2010 study at the Criminological Research Institute of Lower
Saxony in Hanover, Germany from above found that boys who spent
less than 1.5 hours per day playing video games were 75% less likely
to be overweight that those who spent more than 1.5 hours.

A 2011 study established an association between video game play and
an increase in food consumption in teens.

And here's a shocker -- even one game hurts.  A single gaming session
resulted in an increase in food intake, regardless of appetite sensations.

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