Feeling depressed? Play Bejeweled, a new study says

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The National Institute of Mental Health says that roughly 21% of all Americans suffer from some form of "mood disorder," and a large portion of those same people suffer from full-on depression. Another not-so-fun fact is that depression is the leading cause of disability for people ages 15 to 44.

So instead of popping a pill or masking your sorrows using some other less-than-productive means, a new study, underwritten by PopCap shows that playing "casual" games like Bejeweled, Peggle and Bookworm Adventures can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

bejeweledThe study, conducted at East Carolina University's Psychophysiology Lab and Biofeedback Clinic performed on a group of 60 clinically depressed people (half of them served as a control group), who were evaluated after playing a few of PopCap's games, and those who played the games experienced 57% reduction in symptoms. The findings also suggest that playing casual games can have short and long-term benefits for those who play them.

"The results of this study clearly demonstrate the intrinsic value of certain casual games in terms of significant, positive effects on the moods and anxiety levels of people suffering from any level of depression," says Dr. Carmen Russoniello, ECU clinic director and professor who presided over the study. "In my opinion the findings support the possibility of using prescribed casual video games for treating depression and anxiety as an adjunct to, or perhaps even a replacement for, standard therapies including medication."

I'd be curious to see what other types of games have the same effect. Would playing all games help people feel less depressed? What if you play these games too much? Another recent study published in the New York Times says that heavy video game playing has been found to cause depression in teens, mostly because they're spending so much time playing games that they neglect a social life. Not sure if that would also apply to Bejeweled and the other games in the PopCap study, but something to consider for the next go-round.
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