Long Term Effects of Video and Computer Gaming Heavy Use on Health, Mental Health and Education Outcomes Among Adolescents in the U.S
Method: Data analysis was performed using three waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (1994-1995, 1996, 2001-2002), a nationally representative panel study. Video and computer gaming heavy use was defined as more than 21/35/42/56 hours/week usage on video or computer gaming. A propensity score matching (PSM) method was used to create two equivalent groups using different cut-off points in wave 2 based on 28 variables in wave 1 including: demographics, personal characteristics, parenting style, peer relationship, school attachment, community characteristics, as well as baseline conditions of outcome variables. Then multiple regressions were used to predict wave 3 (W3) health, mental health and education outcomes based on two equivalent groups created by PSM.
Result: Playing video and computer game more than 21 hours per week are longitudinally associated with less likelihood of high school completion 6 years later (coef. =-.046. p=.019, effect size = .113); Interestingly, playing video and computer game more than 35 hours per week are longitudinally associated with less likelihood of marijuana using (coef.=-.063, p=.045, effect size=.150). However, adolescents who played video and computer game more than 35 hours per week were more likely to have depression 6 years later (coef=.0898, p=.003, effect size=.225); Similarly, playing video and computer game more than 42 hours per week are longitudinally associated with more likelihood of depression (coef.=.1223, p=.004, effect size=.287). Furthermore, playing video and computer game more than 56 hours per week are longitudinally associated with more likelihood of depression (coef.=.241, p=.000, effect size=.61), as well as more likelihood of conduct disorder (coef.=.061, p=.022, effect size=.349).
Implications: Thus, in general, these findings have shown that adolescents video and computer gaming heavy use is longitudinally associated with long term negative outcomes, such as less high school completion, more likelihood of depression, and more likelihood of conduct disorder. In addition, as more time spending on gaming weekly, more negative outcomes emerged with larger practical significance (effect size). However, heavy gaming will not predict more substance use later on, which is different from a previous study. Based on these findings, it seems that playing 56 hours per week is a meaningful clinical cut-off point with relatively large effect size.