Video game addiction and psychological distress amongst teens in Ontario are on the rise, a new survey suggests.
In a study conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto found over a third of students between Grades 7 to 12 reported high levels of psychological stress last year. The symptoms are linked to serious mental health ailments like depression and anxiety.
Dr. Robert Mann co-led the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey; he says their recent findings are a significant upswing since the last study done two years ago. He reported a 10% hike in students suffering from psychological distress.
Along with the psychological stress findings, the study also explored video game addiction in teens. The researchers discovered 13% of participating students had symptoms of video game addiction, citing preoccupation, loss of control, withdrawal, and disregard for consequences in their findings. That’s a 9% increase since 2007, the inaugural year of video game health monitoring.
Over 10,400 students across 220 Ontario schools were involved in last year’s study, the longest-running school survey of teens in the nation.
Psychological distress was measured using a six-item screening tool. How often they felt nervous, helpless, or worthless, and similar questions were asked by the researchers. Teenage girls were twice as likely to express high distress; 46% felt that way, while just 23% of boys claimed psychological distress.
“This is a significant number of young people, especially girls, who are experiencing high levels of psychological distress,” Mann said in a statement.
“While we can’t say for certain what is causing this distress, it’s important for parents, schools and health-care providers to be aware of what young people are telling us about their mental health,” he said.
“Our research indicates that the later teen years into the twenties is the peak period of stress for many people.”
An extremely high percentage of students had a proclivity for social media – 86% of students claimed to visit social media sites daily, and 16% said they’re on their social media for over five hours every day.
“We know that the more time spent on social media sites, the greater the risk of cyberbullying and related mental health issues,” said Dr. Hayley Hamilton, who co-led the study.
“Combined with low levels of physical activity across this age group, we are seeing clear priority areas where we can work with youth to improve health.”