Video Games as a Potential Modality for Behavioral Health Services for Young Adult Veterans

Exploratory Analysis

Published in: JMIR Serious Games, Volume 6, Issue 3 (2018). doi: 10.2196/games.9327

Posted on RAND.org on January 07, 2021

by Sean Grant, Asya Spears, Eric R. Pedersen

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Background

Improving the reach of behavioral health services to young adult veterans is a policy priority.

Objective

The objective of our study was to explore differences in video game playing by behavioral health need for young adult veterans to identify potential conditions for which video games could be used as a modality for behavioral health services.

Methods

We replicated analyses from two cross-sectional, community-based surveys of young adult veterans in the United States and examined the differences in time spent playing video games by whether participants screened positive for behavioral health issues and received the required behavioral health services.

Results

Pooling data across studies, participants with a positive mental health screen for depression or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) spent 4.74 more hours per week (95% CI 2.54–6.94) playing video games. Among participants with a positive screen for a substance use disorder, those who had received substance use services since discharge spent 0.75 more days per week (95% CI 0.28–1.21) playing video games than participants who had not received any substance use services since discharge.

Conclusions

We identified the strongest evidence that participants with a positive PTSD or depression screen and participants with a positive screen for a substance use disorder who also received substance use services since their discharge from active duty spent more time playing video games. Future development and evaluation of video games as modalities for enhancing and increasing access to behavioral health services should be explored for this population.

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