The Association between Video Game Time and Adolescent Mental Health: Evidence from Rural China

As digital devices like computers become more widely available in developing countries, there is a growing need to understand how the time that adolescents spend using these devices for recreational purposes such as playing video games is linked with their mental health outcomes. We measured the amount of time that adolescents in rural China spent playing video games and the association of video game time with their mental health. We collected data from primary and junior high schools in a poor, rural province in northwest China (n = 1603 students) and used the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scales (DASS-21) to measure mental health symptoms. The results indicated that the average video game time was about 0.69 h per week. There was a significant association between adolescent video game time and poorer mental health. Each additional hour of playing video games also increased the chance of having moderate or above symptoms. Moreover, boys and non-left-behind children had worse mental health if they played more video games. Our study contributes to literature on the links between recreational screen time and mental health, and it sheds light on an issue addressed by recent government legislation to limit the video game time of minors in China.