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Casual Games Scientifically Proven to Relieve Stress

by Rainier on April 28, 2008 @ 6:52 a.m. PDT

East Carolina University reveals the results of a 6-month randomized, controlled study that confirms positive health benefits of so-called "casual" video games, such as Bejeweled 2, Peggle and Bookworm Adventures.

ECU's study yielded significant findings and identified potential therapeutic applications of casual games as a means of addressing serious mental and physical disorders. The study will be published in a peer-reviewed journal and full results will be presented at the Games For Health Conference by Dr. Caremen Russoniello, associate professor and director of the Psychophysiology and Biofeedback Center at ECU.

He says:"I've conducted many clinical studies in the area of recreational therapy in the past, but this was the first one seeking to determine the potential therapeutic value of video games. The results of this study are impressive and intriguing, given the extent of the effects of the games on subjects' stress levels and overall mood. When coupled with the very high degree of confidence we have in those results based on the methodology and technologies used, I believe there is a wide range of therapeutic applications of casual games in mood-related disorders such as depression and in stress-related disorders including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Granted, this study was a first step and much more needs to be done before video games can be prescribed to treat medical conditions. However, these exciting results confirm anecdotal evidence that people are playing casual video games to improve their mood and decrease their stress, and herald casual games' potential in health promotion, disease prevention, and treatment of stress- and mood-related disorders."

Bejeweled 2 was found to reduce stress activity by 54% compared to the control group. Peggle and Bookworm Adventures did not reduce subjects' physical stress levels significantly but did affect psychological tension, depression and other aspects of mood, in some cases dramatically (see below).

Mood was measured in six different categories (broken out below). Cumulatively, these categories are called "total mood disturbance," - a decrease in total mood disturbance being a positive change in mood. Peggle had the greatest affect, improving mood by 573% across all study subjects - with Bejeweled 2 at 435% and Bookworm Adventures at 303%.

  1. Psychological Tension

    Peggle had the greatest affect, with study subjects who played that game averaging a 66% reduction in psychological tension.

  2. Anger

    Bejeweled 2 and Peggle were shown to reduce anger by 65% and 63% respectively. Among female subjects, Peggle produced the greatest anger reduction (86%) while men experienced the greatest reduction of anger while playing Bejeweled 2 (63%).

  3. Depression

    All three games had similar affects on depression, reducing depressions levels by 45% (Peggle), 43% (Bookworm Adventures) and 37% (Bejeweled 2). Dr. Russoniello says:

    "If these games can reduce depression this significantly among a population of people who are not diagnosed with depression, the potential for positively affecting the mental state of someone who is in fact depressed is very significant."

  4. Vigor

    Bejeweled increased Vigor by an average of 210% among subjects who played that game.

  5. Fatigue

    Peggle reduced fatigue by an average of 61% among subjects who played that game.

  6. Confusion

    Subjects playing Peggle saw confusion drop by an average of 486%, while those playing Bookworm Adventures (462%) and Bejeweled 2 (426%) also experienced sizable reductions.

The study was conducted between October 2007 and April 2008 and included a total of 134 subjects.

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