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Average Gamer Is 35, Fat and Bummed 439

Posted by Soulskill
from the fun-also-causes-cancer dept.
kamapuaa writes "According to a study published in the upcoming October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the average US video game player is 35 years old, overweight, and tends toward depression. Specifically, female video game players tended towards depression, while males tended towards large BMIs. While the study itself points to several conclusions, one researcher noted: '... habitual use of video games as a coping response may provide a genesis for obsessive-compulsive video-game playing, if not video-game addiction.'" On the flip side, the Washington Post is running a story about the mental health benefits of playing video games.

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Average Gamer Is 35, Fat and Bummed

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  • Not surprising (Score:2, Interesting)

    by teh.f4ll3n (1351611) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @10:51AM (#29119695) Journal
    Out of 100 depressed fat 35-year-old gamers polled 99 turned out to be depressed fat 35-year-old gamers. 1 turned 36 while being polled.
  • by DoubleParadoxx (928992) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @10:55AM (#29119765)
    I don't think the inference is that gaming leads to depression, but that its a coping mechanism for it. I can honestly say I've WoW to avoid real life. Since then I've since beat the game! (quit)
  • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CDMA_Demo (841347) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @10:57AM (#29119795) Homepage

    ....replaced "Slashdotter" with "Gamer" in the title?

    I think they replaced "Anonymous Coward" with Slashdotter, and then to Gamer

  • Anecdotal evidence (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheCarp (96830) * <sjc@nospAm.carpanet.net> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @11:03AM (#29119897) Homepage

    That this probably applies to movies, books, and several other ways that a person can blow off steam and escape from the day to day grind for a while without getting exercise.

    Shock! Awe!

    I thought I had seen obsessive escapist book reading before, then my wife got a kindle. Actually, I wonder if these addictions are not worst than many drugs. Afterall, reading is healthy and good, and nobody wants to bother someone reading a book. (nor do they usually want to be bothered)

    Though, once you have spent all your free time reading for a month to the exclusion of household chores and social interaction.... well I doubt its much better or worst if its a video game.

    -Steve

  • by wisdom_brewing (557753) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @11:04AM (#29119901) Homepage
    I havent RTFA but...

    females tend to be depressed
    males tend to be overweight

    sounds about right for the USA... is there a control for this based on the gaming + non-gaming demographic?
  • by CannonballHead (842625) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @11:16AM (#29120095)

    People can be quite addicted to tv dramas, sports, and news.

    You've never noticed the people that just HAVE to get home to watch their favorite tv show? Talk about it incessantly? Miss other social engagements to watch it if they aren't able to record it and it won't be available online until *gasp* TOMORROW (and they can't bear to be the last person on earth to see the latest drama)?

    People get addicted. To a lot of things. It's just always just a "simple way" to pass the time. It becomes a "need," according to them.

    Not everyone does get addicted, but certainly many do.

  • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @11:27AM (#29120253)

    I don't understand these studies about addictive gamers who are depressed, lonely, blah blah blah. Gaming, like watching tv dramas or sports or news, or listening to the radio or ipod, is simply a way to pass the time. Why gaming would make someone depressed makes zero sense to me.

    I think these studies are kind of missing the point.

    In the US at least, things are changing. A lot of people are relatively isolated in their personal lives. We're expected to work longer and longer hours, for worse and worse pay. We get less time off. There's less time for socialization. There's less access to healthy food. Lifestyles are increasingly sedentary.

    Folks get home from a long day at a job they don't like, cram some unhealthy food down their throats, and then disconnect from the world - they play video games, or surf the web, or watch tv, or get drunk, or whatever.

    It doesn't surprise me that folks are, in general, overweight and tending towards depression.

  • by lorenlal (164133) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @11:28AM (#29120265)

    As an admitted WoW addict (I've been playing a lot more lately due to increased free time... That'll change in about a month):

    I have a habit where I really get into the storytelling and exploration aspect of a game. I'll play a particular game obsessively, reach the end, and never go back to it. I treat my games the way many of my friends (and fiancee) treat books. I'm sure you see where I'm going with this...

    WoW has no "end." It slowly expands, and I don't think that there's a way that I'm ever going to experience everything in that game. That's probably the biggest difference between WoW (and other MMORPGs) and the other games that AC experienced. It's something that I find dangerous, and very very compelling. I'm pretty sure that I'll be entertained as long as Blizzard keeps the service running. For me, it's not about depression, or isolation (although the game may contribute to the latter), it's about poking around and finding something that keeps my attention.

    I also enjoy cooperative play. It's one of my favorite curiosities. I find it fun to see how groups of relative strangers will cooperate, form large groups to accomplish complex tasks, and then go off to repeat the process in a matter of mere minutes. Well... That and I find it a lot of fun to tank.

  • by The Moof (859402) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @11:29AM (#29120279)
    There's two major flaws with the study:

    1. The test group was 500 people from Seattle/Tacoma, WA. That's a very small set from a very small region if you're trying to make a conclusion about all gamers. (Also, I hear Seattle is a depressing city, but that could just be hearsay).

    2. They use BMI to claim if the subjects are overweight. BMI doesn't really work unless you're trying to identify obesity. It's not accurate in the 'overweight' range since it's a simple weight-to-height calculation and ignores muscle mass vs fat mass. Technically speaking, my BMI states that I'm overweight (6'1", 190lbs), but it ignores the fact I'm physically active in sports.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @11:37AM (#29120421)

    The traditional and popular answers for coping with depression ("get out more!") don't work for introverts. I would expect that introverts are overrepresented in the "gamer" demographic.

    But I don't think it is loneliness that depresses this group. I suspect it is meaninglessness. existential crisis [wikipedia.org] hits this kind of person pretty hard. Not only is life itself meaninglessness, but their life in particular is meaningless. Goals for goals' sake have no motivational power, so they lack drive to do much of anything apart from play their games. They go to work and perform your basic survival tasks out of rote habit. Such is the life of someone who can't find anything that is really exciting.

    It is easy to say "well you lack drive, and that is what is wrong with you." The answer is rejected out of hand, since such people are clear-minded enough to see that the only reason they "lack drive" is because the meaningless bullshit that drives most people is precisely that...meaningless bullshit...and hence they simply can't get excited about it, even if they try.

    You don't help such people by taking away their games and forcing them to go to dance clubs (or whatever). They just sit there, feeling alone in the crowd, and wishing they could be doing something more interesting than listen to air-heads blather on about shoes.

    In my experience (anecdote. sue me.) study of psychology, physics, and philosophy keep life seeming interesting enough to be worth the trouble. I combine that with games, of course, because entertainment is important too. Also, I meditate (non-religious), but I realize that not everyone finds non-drug-induced altered states of consciousness to be as intriguing as I do.

    I am going to say it is "ok" for people to be this way. If these methods of coping with depression don't work, then get a prescription for some mood-altering drugs. That is ok too. Just don't let people tell you that you are some kind of failure for having seen the valuelessness of the bullshit they proffer as being worthwhile.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @11:39AM (#29120447) Homepage

    I too used video games as a coping mech...

    Come home from work and spend an hour on UT, UT2003,UT2004,Unreal3 taking head shots and tea-bagging the dead bodies... Made me unwind from driving home with the collective pile of Idiots that drive on the roads around here.

    Lately I've been using them as a way to play with friends afar. Lots of board games exist for the Xbox 360 and with headsets we can talk. works great to play a game of Catan with friends when we cant get together for it.

  • by RemoWilliams84 (1348761) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @11:51AM (#29120639)

    analyzed survey data from 552 adults in the Seattle-Tacoma area.

    I think this is the most telling part of the survey. Doesn't Seattle have one of the highest suicide rates in the nation?

    Of course the gamers are depressed, everyones depressed. Until this has a wider sample, I think this is bunk.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:18PM (#29121011)

    Gaming can very well be a way to cope with depression rather than cause it. Don't confuse it with gambling.

    When you are "in" a game the world around you becomes less important and that means that the reasons behind the depression may be suppressed - at least for a while.

    I have been into a period of depression, and the worst phase is not when you are gaming but when you have time to think. Like right before falling asleep. You may feel a bit of a guilt by having wasted time gaming, but that's not the main culprit in a depression.

  • by The Living Fractal (162153) <{banantarr} {at} {hotmail.com}> on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:48PM (#29121661) Homepage

    You are mostly hitting the nail on the head. You're missing the part where the search for meaning is clouded by hopelessness. In other words, if these people might find motivation through the attempt to discover meaning, i.e. scientific research, or the arts, or religion, etc, they become even more depressed when they fail and think they will never be able to achieve it... i.e. hopelessness destroys their search for meaning.

    The key solution to the existential crisis is ... surprise: existentialism.

    Life is amazing, with or without meaning. Existence is a miracle that cannot be explained, but can be experienced. So why not experience it to the fullest? Live your life knowing that none of it matters and that it's OK that none of it matters, because the only thing important is that you enjoy the experience, which you may never have again.

    Some highly intellectual people get so tied up on finding 'meaning' that they forget to stop and smell the roses. It's like some kind of loop in our brains, and for many people it is only 'closed' when they find religion. For others, only something as powerful as prescription drugs can close it.

    But for those of us 'intellectuals' who are merely 'bummed' about it, we can often self-medicate using various methods -- existentialism being one of them.

  • by your_neighbor (1193249) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @12:52PM (#29121729)
    Funny reading this. I had a deep depression over the years, some times it does return to haunt me. The solution I found was the same... I keep studying. Some people don't understand my reasons, but I keep on studying japanese, german, I also read a lot about psychology and even astrology (hit me). I wish I had time to go college again and study formally psychology and neuropsychology, maybe pharmacy and others if God gives me enough time. I also I'm working to finish my master thesis in aeronautic engineering and starting my PhD. I wish I had more futile thoughts... it seems people have more desire to stay "here". Games are just one door to get out of the body prison and skip reality when it gets boring. It was nice to me see other ppl have the same problem... it's some kind of relief.
  • Re:Hmm... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hal_Porter (817932) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @01:11PM (#29122089)

    It's not just Caucasians either. I've noticed people getting fatter in Thailand and Japan over the last say ten years.

  • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @01:28PM (#29122369) Journal

    Well, for example how about the fact that the obesity percentages are not the same across the globe.

    In the USA, US, as of 2007, 33% of men and 35% of women are obese. (And another third are "only" overweight.) In the EU, where I'm looking at my gamer friends I described in that message, (depending on the country) you're getting between a third and a half that many obese people. E.g., to pick a comparable year, in 2006 in the Netherlands there were only about 12% obese men and about 10% obese women. Germany actually is the heavy-weight of Europe (pun intended) and slightly out-edges even the USA in percentage of "overweight" males, but at a quick googling seems to be at only 13% outright "obese", again as of 2007.

    So there you go. It seems to me like all their study found was that the average gamer is the average person in that place. They look at the gamers over there and see a lot of fat ones, I look at the gamers over here and see a lot of people anywhere between fit and a bit overweight.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @03:56PM (#29125079)

    Watch out... here comes my 2 cents!

    I think some people are looking at this from the wrong angle and have become a bit defensive. Playing the games isn't necessarily a sign of being middle age, over-weight, or depressed. BUT, some people play the games because they are depressed, socially challenged, and/or in need a coping mechanism. Of all the coping mechanisms out there , I'd rather they camped out at a desk... staring at their XP meter... than pick one that is destructive (self or otherwise).

    After my divorce at age 37, I entered into a deep depression and my social stability became shaky at best. I found normal social interaction difficult and dating near impossible. This depression affected my work and impacted my income (I worked for commission). A friend of mine owned a cybercafe and introduced me to City of Heroes and subsequently World of Warcraft. I immersed myself into the games in my off hours. I found it to be a wonderful escape from reality and a way for me to re-form a healthy out-of-game social behavior via the cybercafe. I was able to work knowing that I had an escape waiting for me at the end of the day as a reward. After about a year, I no longer "needed" the games as an escape or reward and returned to my normal social behavior. Having never entered that depressive state again, I've had no desire to pick it back up or replace it with another coping mechanism.

    Most of the hard core gamers that I actually met during that time were not fat and varied in age from 18 to 50. They did, in my opinion, have varying social challenges (behavioral or physical) which were masked in the games they played (just like mine were). Most were very intelligent and I appreciated their knowledge.

    I'm not saying that I was the exception or the rule. But, I purposefully used gaming to heal myself and found it very effective.

    Boy I hope that made sense. ha ha ha.

  • by h3llfish (663057) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @06:03PM (#29126695)
    You raise some interesting points here, my anonymous cowardly friend, and your logic is sound enough. But I think you are wrong.

    I'm speaking as one of those introverted, video-game-playing depressed people. I identify very much with your comments. But, I don't think you've linked introversion and depression closely enough. The way you word things, it sounds like introverts and extroverts are equally likely to get depressed. I just don't think that's the case. I have no science or numbers to back that up, but since your assertions are anecdotal as well, I guess I'm on firm enough ground.

    I'm not saying that extroverts don't get sad. They do. But they are so involved in the lives of others that they have far less time to sit and ponder how fucked up life is. And it's not all vapid nightclubbers who are extroverts. Extroverts could be at a church group, smoking crack with their crackhead buddies, or maybe just getting crazy with their LARP friends. The point is that they are not so self-centered. They don't sit in their batcave brooding for 4 or 5 hours a night. They are emotionally involved with and invested in the lives of at least a few other people.

    When you do that, you realize that your problems are not the center of the world. When you have a large circle of friends, you have perspective. There's always some triumph or tragedy going on. The cyclical nature of the univers is far more readily apparent. And because you give a shit about these people, it all [i]matters[/i]. Life does not seem to meaningless... existential crisis averted.,

    In short, AC, no one cares about you. You are a spoiled rich kid. Care about something other than yourself.
  • by shiftless (410350) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @12:17AM (#29129471) Homepage

    The problem is that 90% of people who consider themselves "introverts" are actually just nerds with no social skills. The reason they don't enjoy interaction with others is because they're not any good at it. The cure for this, of course, is to go out, socialize, meet people, and develop their social skills. Try telling them that, though; they'd rather sit at home and brood about life. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. Would love to stay and chat with you about how much life sucks, buddy, but I'm too busy out doing things, meeting people, getting laid, and having fun.

  • by jesset77 (759149) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @04:40AM (#29130711)

    35 year old sedentary American:
    Eats a processed diet, high in frozen dinners, pizza, fast food, and soda.
    All of which (in the US) contains high levels of High Fructose Corn Syrup [wikipedia.org]
    Over-dependence on which upsets serotonin levels
    which blocks the neurochemical precursors to feeling "full", encouraging over-eating and weight gain (and profits for food manufacturers, which in turn continue to lobby for corn subsidies)
    Serotonin imbalance also leads directly to depression and insomnia.

    When you're too fat to get out the door and too unskilled and alienated from society to engage in social functions, really there's not a lot to do aside from game, eat, and post comments to slashdot.

    In other news, summary very closely describes me save that I am 32, not 35. And I don't have a flatscreen monitor. D:

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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