Two Studies Explore How Video Games Can Treat Depression

Older man smiles while playing video gameTwo new studies suggest video games could aid the treatment of depression. One study, published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, found a video game could address cognitive issues associated with depression in older adults. A second study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, found video games can improve symptoms of depression, particularly among people whose depression symptoms are more serious.

Improving Cognition in Older Adults with Depression

Researchers in the first study used an app called Project: EVO with 10 adults age 60 and older who experienced depression. The app is meant to improve attention and focus. Though not specifically designed to treat depression, the researchers say improvements in attention might reduce symptoms of depression.

Even though most participants had never used an app on a tablet or played a video game before, all were compliant with the recommendation that they play the game for at least 20 minutes five times per week. Participants also had weekly meetings with a clinician.

A second group of 12 adults with depression attended weekly problem-solving therapy sessions. Compared to the control participants who attended weekly therapy, the participants who played video games experienced similar improvements in depression symptoms.

An App, a Video Game, and a Placebo for Depression

A larger trial involving more than 600 participants with mild or moderate depression assessed the value of video games in the treatment of depression. One group played Project: EVO. A second group used an app called iPST, which uses problem-solving therapy to reduce depression symptoms. A placebo control group used an app called Health Tips, which offered users healthy suggestions.

All three groups experienced similar improvements in mild depression symptoms, suggesting any purported treatment might help reduce mild depression symptoms. However, participants who were more than mildly depressed saw greater improvements with iPST and Project: EVO than with the placebo app.

The results are preliminary, and researchers do not yet know if the improvements will persist over time. They suggest the potential for an app or video game to treat depression could reduce the cost and time commitment associated with traditional depression treatment options.


  1. Anguera, J. A., Gunning, F. M., & Arean, P. A. (2016). Improving late life depression and cognitive control through the use of therapeutic video game technology: A proof-of-concept randomized trial. Depression and Anxiety. doi:10.1002/da.22588
  2. Nodell, B. (2017, January 3). Game your brain to treat depression, studies suggest. Retrieved from

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  • Michael P

    January 10th, 2017 at 11:26 AM

    hmmm different than what I would have thought because I would have thought that being alone and playing games all the time would actually create more depression in someone.

  • autumn

    January 10th, 2017 at 5:41 PM

    It might not seem evident to some but I promise you playing video games can open up a whole new world of people and conversation to you. Those of you who diss it might wanna check it out sometime

  • Josiah

    January 12th, 2017 at 8:39 AM

    Well I would much rather try this than even more medication!

  • Mason

    January 13th, 2017 at 10:41 AM

    I would much rather see the encouragement of one on one time or even conversation but I guess that this is not going to be a possibility for some people. There are some for whom even that would be so far out of their comfort zone that it would probably cause even more stress and anxiety than playing a video game ever could.

  • keon

    February 10th, 2018 at 10:25 AM


  • ali-a

    May 15th, 2018 at 7:48 PM

    i love fortnite

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