Can Video Games Kill You?

Published by Internet Addiction Center on

We can all agree that too much of anything can be a bad thing.  In this article, I want to mention a few extreme cases of unhealthy game play and then end by highlighting some ways to create balance and improve health.

People die while playing video games.  People die of natural causes doing multiple activities.  Stress increases the heart rate and blood pressure putting strain on our hearts.  In a brilliant article in the New England Journal of Medicine researchers concluded that viewing a stressful soccer match has been shown to double the risk of an acute cardiovascular event.  What makes video games any less stressful? An English teenager, with a previously undiagnosed cardiac condition,  was suspected to have died from an acute cardiac event after an extremely stressful moment of xbox play.  One case in China details the death of a 26 year-old male who died from a suspected cardiac event after a 7-day computer binge.  

What factors contribute to the deaths of seemingly healthy young people that also happen to be playing video games?  Video gamers may sit for hours, not moving, and this predisposes them to potentially fatal blood clots. Excitement causes the release of adrenaline which speeds up and makes the heart beat more forcefully which we know can contribute to a potentially fatal arrhythmia.  However, the more serious risk is modern society’s ever increasing amount of inactivity.

The half-century of medical science demonstrates that inactivity leads to poor health outcomes.  Inactivity contributes to weight gain, increased cholesterol, increased risk of type II diabetes and mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.   The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBS), a study measuring the percent of people aged 10-24 engaged in behaviors associated with the leading causes of death in that age group, showed that 43% of those studied spent more than 3 hrs per day on non-school related electronics and that 15.4% had not gotten adequate physical activity.  The YRBS also indicated that of the youth surveyed 14.8% had obesity and 15.6% were overweight.

What can we do to help reverse this troubling trend?  In short, we need to be more active and more social! Physical activity has been shown to increase both physical and mental wellbeing.  A troubling trend that is observed in Generation Z (children born between 2000-present ) is that they feel more isolated and lack some of the basic social skills necessary to be successful in the workforce.  

Below, I have listed some evidence based activities that are key for developing good impulse control, emotional regulation and healthy social interactions.  

  • Enhance activities that foster a child’s ability to tolerate distress, delay gratification and enhance executive functioning.  Find a list of age appropriate activities from the Harvard Center for the Developing Child here
  • Learn stress-reduction techniques and teach them to your children.
  • Enhance your child’s social-emotional IQ.  Here are some ideas
  • Build confidence and brain power by getting kids involved in organized sports or music
  • Set limits on technology use and stick to it. Examples are no use of phones at the dinner table and setting “electronics free times such as 3-6pm”
  • Do physical activity as a family.  Real life activity and interaction should always be more appealing to a child or adult.  If not, there is an imbalance that needs to be further explored.

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