University of Greenwich: Pokemon Go, a positive for players’ mental health- new research

A study from an academic at the University of Greenwich has investigated the effects of Pokemon Go on life satisfaction and social functioning of participants with and without self-reported diagnoses of mental disorders.

434 current Pokemon Go players aged 18-69 of diverse genders and nationalities participated. A subsample of participants self-reported diagnoses of various mental disorders with impairments in social functioning.

Dr Tanja S. H. Wingenbach, who led the study, said:

“There are many mobile games but very few social mobile games and even fewer of these are successful. Pokemon Go keeps engaging diverse players all over the world making it one of a kind. I assumed that it must have benefits for players that go beyond the game itself. I was particularly intrigued by the social aspects of the game, which then sparked the current study. As humans, we are inherently social and have a need for social interactions, whether we are aware of it or not. To think that there is a relationship with well-being then really is not far-fetched. Nonetheless, I find it impressive that a mobile game can lead people towards healthy behaviours and have such positive effects on them.

“Covid-19, and the subsequent lockdowns, forced us to have less face-to-face interactions and this study highlights the importance of this type of interaction. It should really encourage players and non-players to go out and interact with others.”

Participants provided retrospective and current self-report measures about their Pokemon Go use, life satisfaction, social functioning (sociality and social ability) and clinical symptom severity.

Results showed higher self-reported social functioning and life satisfaction since playing Pokemon Go compared to the time period before playing.

The findings show that Pokemon Go motivates social interactions and increases life satisfaction, demonstrating that social mobile gaming provides an easy to implement tool to subjectively improve social functioning. This has important implications for populations with social difficulties and reduced social motivation as well as those not impacted by these difficulties (who also reported improved life satisfaction).

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