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Video Games + Old People = Reduced Depression?

by Jeff Cork on Feb 26, 2010 at 06:20 AM

Getting old can be a drag. Your friends and peers die off, your children ignore you, and youth culture marginalizes your existence. It’s no wonder that so many seniors face varying degrees of depression. According to a study from the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, mild cases can be treated in a surprising way. Well, it would be surprising if you weren’t reading this on a gaming site.

In the study, led by Dipip V. Jeste, 19 adults from ages 63 to 94 played one of the games on Wii Sports. Each of the adults had been diagnosed with subsyndromal depression, a milder, more common form of the disorder. After playing the game three times a week for 35 minutes a pop, Jeste found that more than one third of participants experienced a 50 percent or greater reduction of their symptoms.

As he points out, the study is too small to carry a lot of weight, but it’s a good starting point for a larger, more comprehensive examination. That also doesn’t mean that buying the older people in your life a game console is a satisfactory substitute for picking up the phone every once in a while.