Empirical evidence for the outcomes of therapeutic video games for adolescents with anxiety disorders: systematic review

Barnes, Steven ORCID: 0000-0002-5114-2178 and Prescott, Julie ORCID: 0000-0001-8612-2495 (2018) Empirical evidence for the outcomes of therapeutic video games for adolescents with anxiety disorders: systematic review. JMIR Serious Games, 6 (1). e3. ISSN 2291-9279

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Abstract

Background: Extant evidence suggests that the proportion of adolescents suffering from anxiety disorders (ADs) has increased by up to 70% since the mid-1980s, with experience of anxiety at this stage associated with significant negative short- and long-term life outcomes. The existing therapeutic interventions (eg, cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT; attention bias modification, ABM) have proven to have clinically measurable benefits in reducing anxiety, but their efficacy is often compromised by social and practical barriers. The growing discrepancy between demand for, and access to, clinical interventions for anxiety has led to the development of a range of eHealth (health care practice supported by electronic processes and communication) and mHealth (versions of eHealth using mobile devices) interventions. One such protocol is therapeutic games, which aim to provide clinical frameworks in dynamic, adaptable, and personalized virtual environments. Although some evidence exists to suggest therapeutic games are associated with reductions in subjective anxiety and observed stress reactivity, there is currently, to our knowledge, no systematic review of the adherence to, and effectiveness of, therapeutic games for adolescent anxiety. Objective: The aim of this review was to establish the effectiveness of therapeutic games in making clinically measurable reductions in anxiety symptoms in adolescent samples. Methods: A systematic search of the existing academic literature published between 1990 and July 2017 was conducted using the databases Journal of Medical Internet Research, Journal Storage, Psychology Articles, Psychology Info, ScienceDIRECT, and Scopus. Records linked to empirical papers on therapeutic games for anxiety using adolescent samples were evaluated. Results: A total of 5 studies (N=410 participants) met the inclusion criteria, and 3 gamified anxiety interventions for adolescents were identified. The papers included a mixture of randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental studies, and usability studies comprising quantitative and qualitative measures, with varying degrees of mixed methods. Extant evidence shows potential for therapeutic games to create clinically measurable reductions in symptoms of anxiety in adolescent samples, though findings are complicated in some cases by a low sample size, and in other cases by research design and methodological complications, including anxiety reductions in control groups caused by a control-game selection. Conclusions: Although research in this field appears to be extremely limited, as demonstrated by the small number of papers meeting the inclusion criteria for this review, early findings suggest that therapeutic games have potential in helping to engage adolescents with anxiety and lead to clinically measurable reductions in symptoms.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: anxiety disorder, video games, adolescent, CBT, eHealth, mental health, mobile health
Divisions: School of Education and Psychology > Psychology
Depositing User: Tracey Gill
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2018 15:51
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2018 12:49
Identification Number: 10.2196/games.9530
URI: http://ubir.bolton.ac.uk/id/eprint/1390

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