Monday mornings are filled with back to back meetings and you weren't prepared for all of them. Voicing your opinions and concerns, you get shot down. You end up silently sitting in the corner, watching the clock tick. And when you get back to your desk, there's nothing but emails and papers piled up.

What's the first thing you do when you clock out? Go straight home? Grab a drink? What do you do to de-stress at the end of the day? According to a study published in the 2014 August-September issue of International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, you should kick your feet up, grab a controller, and play some Grand Theft Auto or Legend of Zelda to unwind.

Emily Collins and Anna L. Cox from the University College London Interaction Centre investigate the benefits of gaming to reduce stress and their findings suggest that mindlessly playing video games to reduce stress is a lot more than simply losing yourself in a virtual reality.

The Study

Collins and Cox distributed a series of questionnaires to a total of 491 participants. The following five questionnaires/scales were administered:

  • Need for Recovery Scale: This scale assessed the degree in which participants need to recuperate from stressful work environments. A high score on the Need for Recovery Scale indicates that you are in high need of recovery.
  • Recovery Experience Questionnaire: This questionnaire indicates areas participants need to focus most on in order to recover from stress. These areas include psychological detachment, relaxation, mastery experiences, and control during leisure time.
  • Job Content Questionnaire: This questionnaire assessed each participant's job based on how much stress it causes them.
  • Survey Work-home Interference Nijimegen Scale: A list of 22 statements used to measure how much work life interferes with home life. This is known as work-home interference (WHI). A negative WHI indicates that your work life is interfering with your home life in a bad way. A positive WHI indicates that your work life is interfering with your home life in a good way.
  • Internet Social Capital Scale: Social capital is the number of personal relationships you have and the benefits that come from them. This scale was used to measure the online relationships of each participant and how much those relationships positively affect them.

These participants were recruited from social networking sites, mailing lists, online forums, and various companies. Here is a demographic of the participants:

  • 48.9% female
  • 55.2% played some form of digital game
  • Average number of hours spent gaming per week was 15.45 (S.D.=14.91)
  • Hours spent working per week ranged from 5 to 90

Can Gaming Alleviate Stress?

Collins and Cox predicted that “greater digital game use would be associated with better recovery experience, a lower need for recovery and reduced WHI." At the end of the study, Collins and Cox discovered the following about gamers:

  • Gamers have an overall lower need to recover after work.
  • Gamers have a more positive WHI.
  • Gamers have a more effective recovery experience.

No conclusive correlations were found between the number of hours spent gaming per week and the need for recovery. “If an individual plays digital games, this may be due to the ability and inclination to take time to themselves and to pursue hobbies, and it may be this that reduces WHI and the need for recovery rather than the activity itself," hypothesize Collins and Cox.

Collins and Cox conclude that digital gaming does indeed help with recovery from work-related stress, but acknowledges that there are too many factors within video gaming to suggest that it can effectively help you recover from stress. Some of those factors include genre of game, offline versus online, and type of controller. Collins and Cox hope to continue their studies and incorporate all of these variables.

Date of original publication:
Updated on: October 23, 2015

Sources

Emily Collins, Anna L. Cox. Switch on to Games: Can Digital Games Aid Post-Work Recovery. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 2014; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2013.12.006

Comments