It really can make you feel better
I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone who plays games that they can be a huge help to our mental health. They can provide a much-needed escape for a while, provide us a means of relaxation, and even help us meet new friends. Pokémon Go is among the ranks of games that can help players with symptoms of depression, a study found, which is an unsurprising and yet wonderful-to-hear piece of news. Turns out Nintendo’s massively successful alternate reality game has even more benefits than we originally thought.
The basic idea is that researchers looked at internet search data from those who play Pokémon Go versus those who don’t. What they found was that those who played the game had fewer searches for negative terms relating to mental health, such as “depression,” “stress,” and “anxiety.” They concluded that “location-based mobile games may decrease the prevalence of local rates of depression.”
Of course, the study is not claiming in any way that going out and playing Pokémon Go will cure depression, especially not “chronic or severe depressive disorders.”
The game does, however, have “significant” short-term positive effects for users who suffer from mild or non-clinical depressive symptoms, even if they are non-permanent. While Pokémon may not be a one-time fix for anyone with depression, the fact that the researchers were able to see substantial evidence for its positive effect is pretty cool.
The reasoning behind Pokémon Go‘s effectiveness in lessening depression-related searches is because of its emphasis on “outdoor activity, face-to-face socialization, and exposure to nature,” according to the study. This is also true of other “location-based mobile games.”
The writers of the study also argue that due to the game’s accessibility and relative low cost, it’s worth policymakers and mental health professionals to take note of the potential these games have to make a difference in the lives of those struggling with their mental health.