Do sports or video games make children happier?

Do sports or video games make children happier?

In a sample of boys and girls from nine European countries, we confirmed that satisfaction was higher when they spent more time in both activities, although there were differences by gender.

Diego Gomez-Baya

DIEGO GOMEZ-BERRY Associate professor. Department of Social, Developmental and Educational Psychology, University of Huelva

Research in developmental psychology has demonstrated the importance of lifestyles in the health and well-being of children and adolescents and their impact on later stages of the life cycle.

In childhood and adolescence, the developmental benefits of sport and physical activity as a protective factor follow a dose-response relationship. At least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day is recommended.

In this population, physical activity has been associated with lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of obesity and overweight. Physical activity also provides social benefits by facilitating the development of social and collaborative skills and building better relationships with teachers and peers.

mental health benefits

The effects of physical activity on mental health are also well known: it is associated with a lower risk of depression, anxiety and stress, self-esteem issues, and better cognitive and intellectual functioning, which in turn has been associated with better academic performance. .

Recently, several studies by our research group at the University of Huelva have shown that participation in sports is associated with fewer depressive symptoms, as well as greater life satisfaction and greater body satisfaction during adolescence.

Less sports, more video games

In recent years, data from international studies highlight the decrease in physical activity practice during adolescence, as well as an increase in video game use, use of social networks, or time in front of screens.

In contrast, a wealth of evidence has been gathered after the pandemic that alarms have been raised about the increase in mental health problems in the child and adolescent population, as well as the harm of time spent in front of screens.

What makes you happier?

By analyzing data from the Child Worlds survey, we investigated the differential impact of playing sports or playing video games on life satisfaction in a sample of more than 10,000 12-year-old girls and boys from nine European Union countries.

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The results showed, for example, that only 26.4% exercise every day, while 39.3% use video games every day.

Additionally, we found that more sports activity practice was associated with greater life satisfaction, but no significant association was found with video game use.

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gender differences

We also observed relevant gender differences. Thus, the highest levels of life satisfaction were found in boys who used more physical activity and less video games, while the lowest levels of life satisfaction were found in girls who played less sports and used video games more.

These results underline the need to design and implement programs to promote physical activity and sport as measures to protect the psychological health of our children and adolescents.

This requires working hand in hand across family, school and community settings and addressing existing gender differences to prevent them from continuing throughout development.

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