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The Dark Side of Video Gaming

Prolonged gaming habits can influence sleep, diet, and personal hygiene.

Key points

  • Understanding the poor choices associated with problem gaming can be crucial in preventing health problems.
  • Poor sleep quality is one typical result of extended screen time.
  • Problem gamers can have unhealthy dietary habits such as neglecting meals or opting for junk food.
  • Excessive gaming can lead to neglected personal hygiene.

In recent years, video games have emerged from their former subculture status and become an increasingly accepted and important component of everyday life. But there is a dark side to the trend. Although these virtual worlds can be a source of entertainment, promote social ties, and even assist in the development of critical thinking skills, gaming can also become compulsive and share some signs of addiction. The desire to advance to the next level, conquer the next kingdom, or finish the next quest may become so powerful that it causes players to lose sight of important real-world concerns. A study recently published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media by Ellithorpe, Meshi, and Tham (2023) sheds light on the potential health hazards of problematic video gaming.

According to the findings of the study, "problematic gamers" — those who place an unhealthy amount of importance on gaming at the expense of other regular daily activities — may find themselves making short-term decisions that are detrimental to their long-term health. This pattern of behaviour is known as “myopic decision-making,” and it can have a negative effect on three important health behaviours: quality of sleep, quality of nutrition, and quality of personal cleanliness.

  • Gaming and Sleep: It’s common knowledge that getting enough quality sleep is essential to sustaining a healthy lifestyle, but having a decent night’s sleep might be a low priority for gamers who are completely immersed in the world in which they are playing. According to the findings of the study, problematic gaming is related to a lower quality of sleep. This may be the result of a combination of factors, including prolonged exposure to blue light from displays, increased arousal as a result of playing games, or simply the decision to forgo sleep in favour of game time.
  • Gaming and Diet: Even though the proverb “you are what you eat” may sound like a cliché, it is, in fact, very accurate. A healthy diet is one of the most important building blocks for a healthy body. According to the findings of the study, however, problematic gamers typically have bad dietary habits. This could be the result of factors including a propensity to snack on foods that are convenient to obtain but low in nutrients while playing, a tendency to forgo meals in favour of prolonged gaming sessions, or an inability to devote sufficient time to the preparation of meals because of excessive gaming.
  • Gaming and Personal Hygiene: Maintaining both our physical and mental wellness through regular cleanliness practises is absolutely necessary. This study, however, underscores the fact that excessive gaming might be related to disregarding personal hygiene. This may be the case because gamers may view things like brushing their teeth and exercising as a waste of time that could be spent playing instead.

The findings of this study highlight the complex web of connections between problematic gaming and behaviours that are detrimental to one’s health. Why is this so significant? Recognising these connections has the potential to serve as early-warning signs of behavioural addiction. It may be an indication that someone is developing an unhealthy relationship with video games if they begin to prioritise gaming over sleep, adequate nutrition, or personal cleanliness.

Understanding these difficulties and finding solutions to them is becoming increasingly crucial as we move forward in the digital age, which is characterised by the pervasive presence of technology and displays in our everyday lives. Interventions should not only try to cut down on the amount of time spent playing video games but also aim to develop healthy patterns of behaviour.

It is essential for gamers to find a happy medium between the digital world and the physical one. Although playing video games can be an enjoyable and interesting hobby, it is vital to keep in mind that our physical well-being should not be jeopardised in the chase of virtual accomplishments.

It is becoming increasingly apparent, as more research is carried out, that cultivating a good relationship with gaming is not simply about exercising self-control; rather, it is about enhancing total well-being. Because there is no “reset” button in real life, keep in mind that you need to prioritise taking care of your health the next time you pick up a controller or connect to your favourite online game.


Ellithorpe, M. E., Meshi, D., & Tham, S. M. (2023). Problematic video gaming is associated with poor sleep quality, diet quality, and personal hygiene. Psychology of Popular Media, 12(2), 248–253.

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