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Pathological gaming leads to multiple negative effects

Pathological gaming has become an increasing concern as more technology ends up in the hands of teenagers. A new study looks at the incidence and effects of compulsive gaming in teenagers over time.

The current coronavirus crisis with its stay-at-home restrictions and social isolation has likely led many teenagers to spend more time with their video games, and for some this may lead to issues of pathological gaming. A new study in Developmental Psychology looked at the trajectory of pathological gaming in adolescents.

Researchers recruited 385 teenagers who averaged age 15 years at the start of the study. Each participant was given a questionnaire once a year over the course of 6 years. The questionnaire included questions about depression, pro-social behavior, aggression, empathy, anxiety, financial stress, delinquency, problematic cell phone use, sensory reactivity, and shyness.

The investigators found that participants went along 3 distinct trajectories. Among approximately 10% of the teenaged participants, there were moderate levels of pathological gaming at the beginning of the study and the symptoms increased over the 6 years. Eighteen percent of participants began the study with moderate symptoms of pathological gaming, but they did not change during the 6 years. The bulk of the sample, 72%, had relatively level symptoms at the beginning of the study and during the following 6 years. A participant being male predicted the increasing and moderate groups. The increasing symptoms were tied to the worst outcomes over time. Even when controlling for variables, the 10% with increasing use had higher levels of depression, aggression, shyness, problematic cell phone use, and anxiety than the group with relatively low symptoms.


1.    Coyne SM, Stockdale LA, Warburton W, Gentile DA, Yang C, Merrill BM. Pathological video game symptoms from adolescence to emerging adulthood: a 6-year longitudinal study of trajectories, predictors, and outcomes. Dev Psychol. April 30, 2020. Epub ahead of print. doi: 10.1037/dev0000939