Playing Video Games at Work Reduces Stress, Study Shows

Among the many aspects of life that cause stress, jobs are the most common. A new study found that relief could come from an unexpected source: playing video games at work.

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More than half of Americans regularly experience cognitive fatigue related to stress, frustration and anxiety while at work, according to the new report, published by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. And those individuals working in safety-critical fields—such as health care and air-traffic control—are at an even greater risk for cognitive fatigue, which could lead to errors.

Michael Rupp, a doctoral student in human factors and cognitive psychology at the University of Central Florida, and his co-authors decided to evaluate whether casual video game play during rest breaks is an effective way to combat workplace stress.

0726_video__games_stress_01 Attendees play video games at the E3 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles on June 13. A new study has found that playing video games during a break at work makes employees more productive. Mike Blake/Reuters

The researchers used a computer-based task to induce cognitive fatigue in 66 participants, who were then given a five-minute rest break. During the break, participants played a casual video game called Sushi Cat, participated in a guided relaxation activity or sat quietly in the testing room without using a phone or computer.

At various times throughout the experiment, the researchers measured participants’ stress level, mood and cognitive performance. They found that only the video game players reported that they felt better after taking the break. Those who took a silent rest break reported that they felt less engaged with work and experienced worry as a result, whereas those who participated in the guided relaxation activity saw reductions in negative affect and distress.

“We often try to power through the day to get more work finished, which might not be as effective as taking some time to detach for a few minutes,” said Rupp. “People should plan short breaks to make time for an engaging and enjoyable activity, such as video games, that can help them recharge.”

Some stress could be beneficial. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that this pressured state can help us develop skills we need to manage potentially threatening situations.

But stress does carry potentially serious health consequences, especially when it’s prolonged or severe enough to make an individual feel overwhelmed and out of control. And the problem is widespread. A study published earlier this year found that more Americans than ever before suffer from stress, depression and anxiety. About 8.3 million people suffer from some form of serious psychological distress, defined as a mental health problem serious enough to require medical treatment. Those most affected, according to the results, often can’t afford general medical treatment.

So what are you waiting for? Video games are now safe for work.

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