November 28, 2021

Does gaming reduce stress and improve mental health?


“Playing games is merely a way to kill time when you are not doing something productive.”

“Gaming makes people lazy.”

“Video games are a waste of time.”

“Gamers are a group of lazy, immature misfits who can’t hold a job.”

If you hear these phrases often, you are likely an avid player of video games and know better than anyone the benefits that come with it. Despite common misconceptions, games can actually be beneficial to both our mental health and productivity in more ways than one. Researchers have found that gaming can be beneficial in many ways; including reducing stress and improving mental health.


According to a study done by Kowal and his colleagues (2021), gaming could have positive effects on people who suffer from depression and anxiety. The researchers found that games may provide a way for gamers to socialise with others as well as improve their mood. For example, the video games “Minecraft” and “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” foster social interactions and decrease loneliness. Meanwhile, Fish and his colleagues (2018) found that people with anxiety who played the game “Plants vs. Zombies” four times a week for at least half an hour each session showed improvement in their mental health than those who took medication.


Games can be an excellent distraction during stressful times in life. A study by Roy & Ferguson (2019) found that games were viewed as a form of escape through which gamers could relieve stress. Perhaps that is because sometimes we might feel that all our worries and problems are not worth having. The idea that we can just take a break from our job, take a few months off, and lose ourselves in game for hours at a time is what many gamers are looking to do.


In fact, not all gamers are loners; many actually enjoy the social aspects of gaming. One game that shows this is Team Fortress 2, a game about multiplayer combat between players working as teams to capture particular points or territory, and defend their own base. Many gamers play this game with their friends or co-workers, making it a great way to socialise with others through gaming.

Moderate gaming can be a stress reliever, or a tool for exploration and relaxation, which provides us with an escape from daily stress. However, excessive gaming can cause adverse effects on our health and also our social life when we disconnect from our surroundings and those around us. It’s recommended to look for games that do not require a huge time investment. Some games only take a few hours a week, but you can still get a lot out of their content, where we don’t need to actively lose ourselves by replacing it with all those other things that we know are good for us, such as exercise, fresh air, or hanging out with friends.

You can now play games you like with less guilt 🙂

Happy gaming!

This article is written by:
Angel Lim @ Anradus Pte Ltd.
Industrial & Organizational Psychologist


  • Fish MT, Russoniello CV, O’Brien K. Zombies vs. anxiety: an augmentation study of prescribed video game play compared to medication in reducing anxiety symptoms. Simul Gaming. 2018 May 04;49(5):553-566. doi: 10.1177/1046878118773126.
  • Kowal M, Conroy E, Ramsbottom N, Smithies T, Toth A, Campbell M. Gaming your mental health: a narrative review on mitigating symptoms of depression and anxiety using commercial video games. JMIR Serious Games. 2021;9(2):e26575. doi:10.2196/26575
  • Roy A, Ferguson CJ. Competitively versus cooperatively? An analysis of the effect of game play on levels of stress. Computers in Human Behavior. 2016;56:14-20. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.11.020