MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Ofir Turel, Ph.D
Professor, Information Systems and Decision Sciences
California State University, Fullerton
Scholar in Residence, Department of Psychology
University of Southern California
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Turel: The study emerged as a response to the growing societal concern regarding potentially problematic information system use” lifestyles”, including videogame addiction, among adolescents. Much research in this domain has focused on negative psychological (e.g., reduced wellbeing, depression) and social/life functioning (e.g., reduction in normal activities, diminished school performance). Less is known regarding potential physiological outcomes of videogame addiction.
Interestingly, the increase in videogame addiction-like symptoms among adolescents happened in conjunction with an increase in sleep curtailment and obesity in this population. These are too growing concerns in North America and perhaps elsewhere. Medical research implies that these three phenomena may be related. Hence, we hypothesized that videogame addiction will be associated with increased sleep curtailment and increased abdominal adiposity; and consequently, indirectly, with cardio-metabolic deficits.
Our findings suggest that videogame addiction predicts reduced sleep duration which in turn, predicts increased abdominal adiposity. Abdominal adiposity was associated with increased blood pressure, insulin resistance and triglycerides and reduced high density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Hence, sleep curtailment is an important mediating factor that helps translating videogame addiction into cardio-metabolic deficiencies.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Dr. Turel: First, videogame addiction is a serious issue that can have broader effects than previously assumed. It does not only influence mental health and social/ life functioning but can also have health implications. The cardio-metabolic deficiencies it is associate with often carry into adulthood. Hence, these health outcomes may be long-term and influence one’s health throughout life, not just during adolescence.
Second, sleep is a relatively overlooked issue in addiction and obesity research. Nevertheless, curtailed sleep is an important factor which mediates the influence of videogame addiction on obesity.
Third, videogame addiction, sleep and obesity are all important topics for parent-child discussions; these can be important topics for educators and physicians to discuss with adolescents as a means to prevent such problems or at least alleviate them if the problems already emerged.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Turel: Technology “addiction” is different from videogame use or screen time before bed, even though they are likely associated with technology “addiction”. We hypothesized that the effect of videogame addiction on sleep curtailment is not just because of increased screen time before bed, the close distance between the screens and gamers’ eyes and the associated melatonin effects. Addiction is often associated with extreme preoccupation and desire to increase the addictive activity, and these factors too can lead to sleep problems. Disentangling the mechanisms through which videogame addiction influence sleep reduction is a future research worthy topic.
Similarly, we assumed direct effect of sleep curtailment on abdominal adiposity. Obviously there are hormonal and other processes that create this effect; and these should be studied in the future.
In addition, sedentary time mechanisms should be also considered as potential contributors to obesity. Moreover, our sample included adolescents. We know that some started playing videogames at a very young age. It would be interesting to test the stability of the observed effects in younger populations and examine longitudinally the longevity of the observed effects. Lastly, our study focused on sleep duration. Other sleep facets, such as subjective quality and efficiency may be taken into account in the future.
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PLoS One. 2016 May 5;11(5):e0154764. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0154764. eCollection 2016.
Health Outcomes of Information System Use Lifestyles among Adolescents: Videogame Addiction, Sleep Curtailment and Cardio-Metabolic Deficiencies.
Turel O1,2, Romashkin A3, Morrison KM3.
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