3 min read

Health - Gamer vs. Non-Gamer

Health - Gamer vs. Non-Gamer
Hi friends,

Today, we’ll take a first glimpse into a different domain of Esports & Gaming Science – Health. Similar to traditional sports athletes, health is crucial for performance, but how do gamers compare to the general population? What are the differences between gamers and non-gamers when it comes to health and health related behaviors?

⚕️ General Health Status

A study from 2008 by Williams et al. found that players have a “good” subjective health status. In the study, 7,000 people participated. However, subjective health does not equal objective health. One can feel good overall, but that does not mean that one is actually well. Some diseases can already be lurking in your body. Another point to mention is subjectivity is subject to reference, meaning you can feel “good”, but the only reference point you have is you. You don’t know if others feel better or worse in comparison.

The findings of a good overall subjective health status were echoed by two recent studies – Rudolf and co-authors from 2022, and Trotter et al. from 2020.
The same two studies also revealed that the players’ subjective health status was associated with longer sitting, BMI (Body Mass Index), and (perceived) physical activity. In my opinion, these results are not shocking to any gamer. If you love to play games, you have to sit in front of the PC or console. As a consequence, you are less likely to exercise (who doesn’t know the inner devil?). Gamers, similar to the general population, enjoy eating unhealthy, calorie-high food. These three components together – less physical exercise, more sitting, and a regular diet – could very well lead to a higher BMI.

Another fact from the study by Trotter and colleagues is that player’s subjective health had a negative impact on Esports frequency. In other words, the more people play, the worse their subjective health gets. Players’ subjective health was also associated with more frequent smoking, and gamers being more obese – class 1 to 3. This was compared to underweight, normal, and pre-obese players’ subjective health.

To put this into perspective though, gamers reported
“[…] having a relatively low smoking frequency (8%, n = 141), [and] the majority of esports players reported not drinking alcohol (65.1%, n = 1150).”

🤒 Physical Impairment

An interesting finding from the Williams and others’ study is the fact that 9.51% of the 7,000 people reported having a physical impairment. This is more than 7.3% of what the general public reported. One explanation could be that physically impaired people are more likely to be at home in front of the computer or console and hence likely to play video games.

🎮 Physical Activity & Performance

From a scientific standpoint, it seems clear that the population of gamers is worse off compared to the general population when it comes to health markers. BMI and negative health-related behavior (prolonged sitting, smoking, and less physical exercise) are a problem and may cause bigger health problems later in life. The results also mean that gamers are at higher risk of developing (chronic) diseases.
“Esports players ranked in the top 10% were more physically active compared to the remaining esports players.”
💡 This finding alone should give you, an ambitious gamer who wants to be better than your friends IRL and teammates online, additional motivation to get up and exercise some (more). Physical exercise doesn’t just lower your risk for developing (chronic) diseases and make you look better; it may also boost your in-game performance. Professional players are athletes, and like traditional athletes, they work out to stay mentally and physically tip-top shape.

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~Christian 🙂

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