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TMCnet Feature

May 08, 2014

Take a Break! Mobile Gaming Can Help Reduce Stress and Anxiety


It’s become a well-documented fact that handheld gaming is seeing a huge surge in popularity, thanks to many technological advancements and wider accessibility of smartphone devices in recent years.

Research by analyst firm Digi-Capital predicts that the growth in individuals who play apps, game via social network sites like Facebook or access gaming hubs like Butlers Bingo from their devices will grow at a compound annual rate of 23.6 percent, generating $60 billion of the entire video game industry’s $100 billion worth by 2017.

However, entertainment is not the only benefit that this rapidly booming industry is having.  According to new research by the Association for Psychological Science, mobile gaming apps can actually help to reduce the effects of stress and anxiety in players. The paper is reportedly the first to investigate how mobile apps can be used in psychiatry treatment.


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One single gaming session can help to reduce acute stress responses when used as part of attention-bias modification training. With treatment for anxiety, the most common psychiatric disorder, costing so much, being difficult to access and carrying a certain social stigma, this study could be ground breaking in helping sufferers to find easy access to treatment at any time or place, such as prior to a stressful event. The report notes that this type of treatment is unobtrusive and comes at a low cost to those who need it. 

Laura O’Toole, PhD, co-author of the report and Emotion Regulation Lab worker in the department of psychology at the University of New York, said: “The goal of our study was to gamify an emerging computerized therapeutic approach in order to attempt to overcome some of these barriers, by making it more engaging and enjoyable for people to play.”

“Yet research on alternative delivery strategies that are more affordable, accessible, and engaging is in its infancy,” added the report’s authors. “Attention-bias modification training has the potential to reduce treatment barriers as a mobile intervention for stress and anxiety, but the degree to which ABMT can be embedded in a mobile gaming format and its potential to transfer its benefits is unknown.”

Using mobile apps as an aid to patient treatment is becoming an increasingly popular innovation. In addition to its implications in psychiatric treatment, smartphone apps are also proving helpful in the treatment of physical issues. An app developed by the University of Cambridge promises to enhance the accuracy of colorimetric test, which check for diabetes, kidney disease and urinary tract infections. Similarly, mobile software is now being used in blood testing to analyze results in blood treatment scenarios. 





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