Background Play and games are considered important contributors to healthy ageing; however, it is not clear how online gaming contributes to this association. We aimed to explore the impact of online gaming on older adult well-being.
Methods Using data from 3,067 participants aged 50 years and older from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, we performed multiple regressions and logistic regressions to assess the association between online gaming at (wave 6, 2012/13) and quality-of-life, loneliness, and depression at (wave 9, 2018/19) over a follow up of up to 7 years. Quality-of-life was assessed using the CASP-19 scale, loneliness was assessed using the UCLA Loneliness scale, and depression was assessed using the Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Adjustment for covariates was carried out gradually: Model 1 adjusted for age, sex and marital status, model 2 further adjusted for education and work status, model 3 included depression and self-rated health, and finally, model 4 included all covariates as well as physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption. Additionally, interactions with age, sex, marital status, education, and work status were investigated.
Results The analytical sample had an average age of 65 years (SD=7.01). We found that 22% of respondents engaged in gaming. Furthermore, of those participants who gamed, 65% were females and 48% were between 61 to 70 years old. Interaction analyses indicated that for younger individuals (≤65 years), gaming predicted lower scores in the self-realization sub-scale of the CASP-19 (β=-0.33, 95% CI -0.62 to 0.04, p=0.03) in comparison to >65+ gamers. Furthermore, for widowed individuals, gaming predicted lower scores in CASP-19 (β=-2.63, 95% CI -4.68 - to 0.58, p=0.01), indicating a lower quality of life in comparison to married, or single participants. Further analysis indicated that widowed individuals had lower scores in the self-realization (β=-0.90, 95% CI -1.68 to -0.11, p=0.03) and pleasure sub-scales (β=-0.62, 95% CI -1.17- to -0.07, p=0.03) of CASP-19. There was also a marginal association for widowed individuals who game and lower scores in the autonomy subscale (β=-0.58, 95% CI -1.18 to 0.12, p=0.06). There were non-significant associations between gaming and loneliness and depression.
Conclusion Online gaming might be independently associated with lower levels of quality of life, particularly in terms of pleasure, self-realisation, and autonomy. This association might be modified by the individual’s age and marital status. Widowed individuals who game appear to be more likely to report a lower sense of self-realisation, pleasure, and autonomy with some implications for their well-being.
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