Video game addiction can lead to sleep deprivation, thereby putting the players at serious risk of numerous health issues associated with sleep loss such as obesity and cardiovascular diseases, warns a study.
"This is an important phenomenon to understand. We are seeing that some children and teens develop serious addiction-like symptoms to video games," said co-author of the study Katherine Morrison, associate professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.
"It affects a vulnerable population of children and youth, can impact social interactions amongst youth and, as our research shows, can drive health issues," Morrison noted. For their research, the team studied a group of children and teenagers aged 10 to 17 who were in lifestyle management programmes - either for weight management or lipid disorders.
The study looked at whether the video game habits of the group had an impact on sleep habits, obesity and cardio-metabolic health. Using fitness trackers, the team monitored the sleep duration and compared that to the youth's video game usage.
The data showed that video game addiction symptoms resulted in shorter sleep which, in turn, was related to elevated blood pressure, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high triglycerides, and high insulin resistance.
"We were amazed that amongst gamers, video game addiction scores explained one-third of the differences in sleep duration," Morrison said. "Sleep is emerging as a critical behaviour for cardio-metabolic health, and this data shows that gaming addictions can cause numerous health issues in at least a segment of the population," she said.
"Childhood obesity tracks into adulthood and obese children face a greater risk of cardiovascular and coronary diseases as well as Type-2 diabetes as adults," Morrison pointed out.