New US research has found that men who play video games while in college are less likely to exercise and eat healthy foods than non-gamers.
Carried out by researchers at the University of New Hampshire, the new study looked at data gathered from over 1,000 male students at the college who were aged 18 to 24.
The students were asked to provide a daily report on how much time they had spent playing video games that day and record the food they ate over two weekdays and one non-consecutive weekend day. They were also asked to wear a pedometer to track the number of steps they took each day.
The findings, which will be presented at Nutrition 2020 Live Online, a virtual conference hosted by the American Society for Nutrition (ASN), showed that nearly 70 percent of the men reported playing at least some video games, and just over 40 percent played video games for at least five hours per week.
Moreover, those who played video games had a diet higher in saturated fat and sodium than non-gamers — which the researchers say suggests that they are eating more salty snacks — and lower in fruit and vegetables. The gamers’ physical activity levels were also lower.
Perhaps surprisingly, the researchers didn’t find any differences in weight between those who played video games and those who didn’t, but they did point out that these unhealthy lifestyle habits in college could contribute to weight gain and a higher risk of disease later in life.
“It’s important to understand that video games are a risk factor for poor lifestyle habits that may contribute to poor health,” said Dustin Moore. “We know that habits developed in adolescence and early adulthood can stick with people for the rest of their lives, so if we can encourage video game users to eat healthier and exercise more, we could help them live healthier without completely giving up video games.”
“The video game industry is continuing to grow at a fast pace and more people are playing than ever,” said Moore. “If the findings of our study are indicative of general population, increases in video game usage could translate to increases in overweight/obesity and chronic disease in the general population, which is already a big issue.”
Previous research about how video games impact health has so far produced mixed results. Some studies have shown that playing videos games such as Pokemon Go could improve activity levels, while others could help reduce the risk of dementia in seniors. A study published in April also showed that playing video games is one of many activities which could help us cope better with confinement due to COVID-19.
However, research has also shown that children who play video games are more likely to eat a poorer diet and be overweight. The new study is now one of the first to look at this association in college students.