Do video games help or hurt well-being after job loss?

New research is trying to determine whether video games have a positive or negative influence on the well-being of unemployed people.

Unemployment can have devastating effects on people’s psychological and social well-being. The lack of control over one’s life and loss of social connections that typically results from unemployment can become even more severe during a pandemic.

To manage the damaging effects of unemployment and maintain their well-being, unemployed workers often develop coping strategies, such as playing video games, that keep them busy, socially connected, and give meaning and structure to their lives.

Yu-Hao Lee, an associate professor at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communication, and doctoral student Mo Chen wanted to better understand how unemployed people use video games to cope with the stress of unemployment, especially during COVID- 19. They wanted to know how playing video games as a form of escape or recovery would affect their well-being, job search efficiency, and actual job search behaviors. Researchers also sought to determine if there are differences between gender, age, race, and income levels in terms of video game usage.

The results showed that, in general, unemployed people used video games both as a way to regain a sense of control and as a form of escape from the stress of unemployment. Video games can foster a sense of control by helping gamers feel empowered, competent, and connected to others. The researchers found that for the unemployed in the study, it was the autonomy and competence afforded by video games far more than the social connections that provided users with a sense of control.

It was also shown that increased gambling time after unemployment was significantly associated with evasion. However, the unemployed are less likely to benefit from escapism through video games and instead may feel worse about themselves and their behaviors by engaging in games.

Ultimately, unemployed workers who gain a sense of control by playing video games are more likely to benefit from the game through improved well-being. In contrast, those who use video games to escape the stress of unemployment are more likely to experience a negative impact on their well-being as well as on their job search efficiency and behaviors.

By examining which demographic groups were more likely to seek escape, which is associated with lower well-being, the study found that younger unemployed males with low or middle household incomes were more likely to try to get away from video games than unemployed women.

A key limitation is that because the participants were recruited from an online panel, the sample is not representative of all unemployed workers in the United States. The sample may be biased in favor of the unemployed who have more experience using the Internet than others. Future research would do well to look more closely at gender and racial groups as well as different types of video games to further examine how the specifics of video games may influence the management of the effects of unemployment.

The search appears in Games and culture.

Source: University of Florida

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