Social support, depressive symptoms, and online gaming network communication

Date03 January 2020
Publication Date03 January 2020
AuthorTyler Prochnow,Megan S. Patterson,Logan Hartnell
SubjectHealth & social care,Mental health,Social inclusion
Social support, depressive symptoms,
and online gaming network communication
Tyler Prochnow, Megan S. Patterson and Logan Hartnell
Purpose The increase of videogame use has raised concerns regarding mental health of gamers (e.g.
social isolation, depression); however, online gaming may offer the benefit of social connectivity. Many games
provide ways for people to meet and interact, providing social opportunities difficult to come by for some
young adults. One way to investigate social connection is through social network analysis, which explores the
influence of connections on behaviors. The purpose of this paper is to analyze factors related to social
connections within an online gaming community, with an emphasis on the influence of social support and
depressive symptoms on network ties.
Design/methodology/approach All members of an online gaming site were asked to report
demographics, site use, depressive symptoms, in-real-life(IRL) social support, and online social support.
Members were also asked to nominate those in their gaming network with whom they spoke to about
important life matters. Morans I determined the spatial autocorrelation of depressive symptoms and IRL
support within the network. Exponential random graph modeling determined factors significantly associated
with tie presence between members.
Findings Members (n ¼37) were significantly more likely to speak to other members about important life
matters if they reported more site hours, more depressive symptoms, and less IRL support. Depressive
symptoms and IRL support were not significantly spatially autocorrelated within this network.
Originality/value Results suggest members may be filling an IRL social support deficit with friends they
have met online. Additionally, members who reported more depressive symptoms may be seeking help from
informal online connections through online gaming.
Keywords Social support, Social network analysis, Depressive symptoms, Help seeking, Online gaming
Paper type Research paper
According to an industry report from the Entertainment Software Association (2019), over 65
percent of America ns play some form of vi deo game daily (Ente rtainment Softwar e
Association, 2019). The same report stated the video game industry accounted for a reported
$43.4bn in 2018 (Entertainment Software Association, 2019). The rise in popularity of online
gaming has been met with many concerns over its potential negative health effects, including
risk for isolatio n (Orleans and Laney , 2000), addiction ( Grüsser et al., 2006), increased
aggressive behavior (Grüsser et al., 2006), increased risk for depressive symptoms (Wei et al.,
2012) and reduced real life social involvement (Kraut et al., 1998). Overall, greater internet
usage has also been associated with increased risk for depressive symptoms and anxiety
(Bernardi and Pallanti, 2009; Christakis et al., 2011). Meanwhile, increased video game use has
been associated with higher BMI and lower physical activity among undergraduate males
(Ballard et al., 2009).
Despite these preliminary concerns, a growing body of literature supports these games,
identifying cognitive, emotional and social benefits to game participation (Granic et al., 2014).
Uttal et al. (2013) found that cognitive improvements to spatial skills resulting from playing video
games may be comparable to improvements from formal courses on spatial reasoning and skills.
Video game use is also associated with improved creativity in children (Jackson et al., 2012).
Tyler Prochnow is based at the
Baylor University, Waco,
Texas, USA.
Megan S. Patterson is based at
the Texas A&M University
College Station, College
Station, Texas, USA.
Logan Hartnell is based at the
Adler University, Chicago,
Illinois, USA.
DOI 10.1108/MHSI-11-2019-0033 VOL. 24 NO. 1 2020, pp. 49-58, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2042-8308
PAG E 49

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