A study conducted by the London School of Economics and Political Science has found that Pokemon Go and other location-based mobile games could help people with depression.
Pokemon Go is unique from other games in the franchise because it encourages players to walk around outside, hopping from one location to the next to find and catch Pokemon or battle at various gym locations.
However, in addition to being incredibly fun, research shows it might help people with depression, although researchers pointed out the findings only relate to those with non-clinical mild depression.
The study was published in the Journal of Management Information Systems on April 11. It examined how location-based mobile games like Pokemon Go impacted the depression levels of those who play them.
Researchers looked at how often people in 166 regions across 12 different countries searched for depression-related terms including ‘depression,’ ‘stress,’ and ‘anxiety’ on Google in the first 50 weeks after Pokemon Go’s release in 2016.
The London School of Economics and Political Science claimed this is a “well-established mechanism for measuring mild depression in medical and public health literature,” and what they found surprised them.
“Results indicate a material decline in the search associated with depression, following the release of Pokemon Go,” they said. “These findings suggest that location-based mobile gaming may yield short-term relief of an acute and mild form of depression.
“Empirical evidence also suggests the behavioral mechanisms underpinning this observed effect, notably that Pokemon Go has its observed effects by encouraging outdoor physical activity, face-to-face social interaction, and exposure to nature.”
Ultimately, the researchers concluded that Pokemon Go and other location-based mobile games could be used to encourage healthy behavior among people with non-clinical mild depression, which may alleviate symptoms.
More research is required. However, it opens the door to the possibility of using Pokemon Go and other games as a tool to help mildly depressed people in the future, even if it’s just a small part of their therapy process.