Video games’ effects on male adults’ mental health | Sunday Observer

Video games’ effects on male adults’ mental health

12 June, 2022

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had recently stated that compared with the female students, the male students achieved lower pass rates at examinations and poorer grades and had a higher chance of repeating school years.

Philip Zimbardo, an American psychologist declared, “Young men are failing as never before - academically, socially, and sexually”. As noted by OECD, in multiple Western countries, it was often noticed that female students repeatedly outperformed their male counterparts in reading tasks, given the classroom circumstances.

It was also reported that in Ireland, performance of female students at both the junior and Leaving Education Certificates (LEC), was significantly outstanding. As per the statistics of Ireland and EU employment rate from 2006 - 2016, the unemployment rate in Ireland among men between the ages of 19 and 24 more than doubled from 8.1% in 2006 to 18.9% in 2016. In addition to that, it was reported that from 2008 to 2019, the percentage of American men between 18-29 years of age who reported having no sex in the past year increased up to 23%.

During this particular period of time, it was found that the industries of video games as well as pornography had been experiencing an unprecedented rate of growth.

Cultural slump

Zimbardo and Coulombe, two leading researchers postulated a causal relationship between the increase of pornography, and video games and the cultural slump of men.

They argued that there is a reduction in motivation in performing significant and necessary tasks such as learning, socializing, developing romantic relationships, and achieving career goals due to the overwhelming stimulation offered by pornography and video games.

Consequently, it leads to the decline of the mental health of the user. A study conducted by Foulkes and Katz has also focused on the potential reasons pertaining to the recent escapism of the US population into mass media. It was further declared that the alienation, classified as “the feeling of powerlessness or meaninglessness, or the feeling of ideological or social isolation was also an important factor”.

Patrick Dimitris and Andreou-Andropoulos of the department of Psychology at Dublin school of Arts remarked “Video game and pornography use function as outlets for escapism that offer users supplementary satisfying and rewarding experiences. However, the supernormal stimulation offered by these services presents a danger of imparting a “narcotizing” effect on its users, incurring a negative feedback loop resulting in a reduction in motivation to perform necessary tasks, such as socializing or developing a romantic relationship”. Based on the argument made by Agas and Gaddam, two prominent researchers in ‘A billion Wicked Thoughts’, Dimitris and Andropoulos further declared “The reason males tend to use pornography more than females is due to the difference in the evolutionary development of sexual arousal between the sexes. Males developed an “or” arousal, whereas a prospective mate’s single arousal cue would be sufficient enough to arouse them”.


A development of this calibre allowed males to exploit avenues for sex whereby increasing their chance of ‘gene propaganda’. In contrast, females were seen developing an “and” arousal where multiple arousal cues need to be presented to result in arousal.

Compared with pornography, the video game industry is experiencing a huge growth and popularity which has its own specific significance. It is reported that there are over 2.5 billion video gamers around the world and the industry is estimated to be worth over 300 billion US dollars by 2025.

As commented by Jane McGonigal, director of game research and development at the institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California, an average male will spend 10,000 hours playing video games by the time they reach 21 years of age.

The Dublin researchers further opined, “While video games have positive attributes, excessive use in isolation may hinder social development and motivation to succeed”.


Video games tend to activate the reward regions of the brain in men more than in women. Some researchers argue that males turn to video games more than females. The said phenomenon is contributed by the fact they may be informed by society that the inner mental worlds that they have shaped up most importantly their sexual and aggressive instincts to which these particular areas basically appeal are dangerous and unacceptable.

It is also revealed that young men who socially end up with seclusion within seductive worlds may have a great cost to their, academic professional, social and sexual lives. It is also argued that as males encounter considerable disappointment, there is a tendency for them to fill the gap with video games. A study conducted in 2019 found that an increased exposure to online pornography resulted in an increase in depressive symptoms.

The Dublin researchers remarked, “This seems to be due to pornography’s intensive stimulation of the brain’s reward system which has a substantial effect on the decision making process demonstrated that when playing video games, blood is inhibited from accessing the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain responsible for providing context for motivation and drive. This may lead to a decrease in the individual’s ability to strike a balance between different areas of life and the corresponding negative affective consequences.”

Apart from that, the use of pornography is found to be correlated with higher delay discounting. A study declared that individuals who may have an Internet gaming disorder showed significantly higher levels of negative affect as well as higher levels of impulsively and lower resilience.