Jul 23, 2019 | Updated: 09:15 AM EDT

Do Video Games Drive Obesity?

Jun 18, 2019 09:58 AM EDT

Do Video Games Drive Body Mass?
(Photo : Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay)

The mental picture a lot of people have about a typical gamer is in the form of a chubby teen lolling on the sofa for hours on end, the game controller in one hand, a bag of crisps at his side, and a bottle of coke on the coffee table. A widespread notion goes along with this mental picture that constant gaming contributes to obesity. The question is whether there is a justification in this notion.

A communication psychologist at the University of Wurzburg, Professor Markus Appel explained that the study contradicts this stereotype for children and teenagers. In adults, there is a slight positive correlation between playing video games and body mass.

A joint force of Markus Appel and Caroline Marker, both researchers from the University of Wurzburg, Professor Timo Gnambs from the Johannes Kepler University Linz and the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories in Bamberg, conducted a meta-analysis comprising a total of 20 relevant studies with more than 38,000 participants. The report, however, showed only a small correlation between video game playing and excess weight or body mass. Only one percent of a person's overweight can thus be attributed to time spent playing computer games.

The researchers only established the link for adults not for children and teenagers. Appel suggested that it may be that individuals who are overweight are more likely to continue their hobby of playing video games during the transition to adulthood, whereas new leisure time activities become quite essential for others.

Several researchers have studied the connection between gaming and overweight in the past. As the team wrote in its current study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, obesity and overweight are usually linked with sedentary media consumption, including watching television or playing non-active video games. Since the individual studies yielded different results, the researchers launched the new meta-analysis.

The team from Wurzburg and Linz explained the correlation as they identified a significant indirect effect which shows that people who spend more time playing video games also spend less time exercising and therefore weigh more or have more body mass. Other factors, such as eating junk food while gaming or lack of sleep, were not verified because there were not enough relevant studies available.

In their current study, the team only considered sedentary video games, i.e., games that are played in a sitting position. Active video games such as Wii Sports or Pokemon Go, which require the players to move, were not taken into consideration.

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