There is a modest association between problematic video game involvement and certain forms of violence in adolescents, according to study data published in the Journal of Psychiatry Research.

“Gaming disorder”— also called “at-risk” or “problem-gaming”— refers to a pattern of increased or persistent video game use despite negative consequences. Existing study data implicate problem gaming in aggressive behavior in youths, although the mechanism of this relationship is poorly understood. In the study, investigators administered a survey to more than 4000 adolescents from public high schools in Connecticut. The 154-question survey captured demographic information, health and functioning, and video gaming habits. Problem or at-risk gaming was identified using questions derived from the Minnesota Impulsive Disorder Interview; participants who endorsed 1 or more problem-gaming questions were classified as having at-risk/problem video-gaming (ARPVG). The survey also included 5 violence-related measures: (1) weapons-carrying; (2) feeling unsafe at school; (3) being threatened or injured with a weapon; (4) physical fighting; and (5) serious fighting leading to injury. Chi-square and logistic regression analyses were performed to identify any association between gaming habits and violent behavior. The moderating effects of sensation-seeking and impulsivity were also assessed.

Data from 3896 adolescents were used in the analyses, of whom 27.4% demonstrated low-risk video-gaming (LRVG) and 23.4% demonstrated ARPVG. Per Chi-square analyses, ARPVG was more frequently identified in boys, lower grade levels, and in participants who self-identified as being of Asian ethnicity (all P <.001). In logistic regression, all 5 violence-related measures were associated with ARPVG. Compared with LRVG, adolescents with ARPVG had a significantly greater likelihood of weapons-carrying (P =.02), feeling unsafe (P <.02), being threatened or injured with a weapon (P =.01), and engaging in a serious fight leading to injury (P =.02). These trends persisted in the model adjusted for demographic characteristics. However, adjustment for substance use and depression attenuated the association between ARPVG and engaging in fights. In both the LRVG and ARPVG groups, longer gaming duration (≥21 hours/week) was associated with increased odds of weapon-carrying (odds ratio [OR], 2.73; 95% CI, 1.51-4.94; P ≤.001) and feeling unsafe (OR, 3.92; 95% CI, 1.51-10.17; P ≤.01) compared with shorter duration (<21 hours). Gaming duration analyses were adjusted for demographics, substance use, and depression. In exploratory analyses, sensation-seeking was found to moderate the relationship between violence and ARPVG. Relative to no gaming and LRVG, ARPVG was associated with weapon-carrying frequency when sensation-seeking scores were in the 50th and 84th percentiles, but not the 16th percentile. No significant moderating effect of impulsivity was observed for problem-gaming severity in weapons-carrying outcomes.

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These data demonstrate an association between several violence measures — chiefly weapons-carrying — and ARPVG in adolescents. School- and community-based interventions to reduce problem gaming behavior may be important in mitigating the risk for violent behaviors or injury. Further study is necessary to “understand the…impact and pathways of [ARPVG] in the etiology of physical violence and weapons-related violence,” the investigators wrote.

Disclosure: One study author declared affiliations with the pharmaceutical industry. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures


Zhai ZW, Hoff RA, Howell JC, Wampler J, Krishnan-Sarin S, Potenza MN. Differences in associations between problematic video-gaming, videogaming duration, and weapon-related and physically violent behaviors in adolescents [published online November 14, 2019]. J Psychiatr Res. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2019.11.005