Playing videos games may make you happier, new research suggests.
Conducted by researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute, the study asked 3,274 gamers how they felt about their experiences, linking their responses to the length of time they played.
According to the findings, the length of time playing video games was a significant indicator of 'wellbeing'.
The findings are particularly significant because of the method used to link gaming and the mental state of participants. By measuring actual gaming time, researchers could analyse any correlation with the questionnaire results themselves. Past studies have relied upon self-reported survey results which have been shown to be unreliable.
"Through access to data on people's playing time, for the first time we've been able to investigate the relation between actual game play behaviour and subjective wellbeing, enabling us to deliver a template for crafting high-quality evidence to support health policymakers," said Professor Andrew Przybylski, lead author of the study.
The regulation of video games has long been an area of fierce debate, with the impact of gaming on mental health, particularly in children, being a particularly prominent part of the discussion.
Past claims have drawn links between gaming and aggression, although these have never been solidified through clinical research.
"Without objective data from games companies, those proposing advice to parents or policymakers have done so without the benefit of a robust evidence base," added Prof Przybylski. "Our findings show video games aren't necessarily bad for your health; there are other psychological factors which have a significant effect on a person's wellbeing.
"In fact, play can be an activity that relates positively to people's mental health - and regulating video games could withhold those benefits from players."
Although representing a significant step toward better understanding the relationship between gaming and mental health, the study is described by its own authors as a 'snapshot' of data.
The question of subjectiveness of a gamer's experience – which the authors themselves state could be even more important than game time – is also not addressed in the study. If someone is playing a game they enjoy, they may be more likely to report positive wellbeing.