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Are virtual-game players more depressed?

February 16, 2009 |  2:32 pm

Virtual1 Virtual online games involve chatting with people, performing quests together, forming groups and role-playing. One of the largest surveys of people who play virtual games, however, has found that time spent playing is linked to depression.

Researchers at Northwestern University surveyed 7,000 players of the virtual game EverQuest II. They found that depression levels in the groups ranged from almost 21% in people who didn't play the game that often to more than 30% in those who played a lot. "This could mean that highly active players get more depressed or that depressed people are more likely to be active role players," said the author of the study, Noshir Contractor, a professor of behavioral science.

The study was presented last week at a meeting of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science. The study also found that many players underestimate the amount of time they spend playing and that women are the most dedicated and satisfied players. Studying people who play virtual games is important, Contractor said. "In many ways it's a microcosm of our existence in the general social world."

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Greg Baker / Associated Press