Do Video Games Contribute to ADHD?

A brief look at research into the relationship between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and video games.

The Verdict? Maybe.

Thus far, most studies point to no. People with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) tend to enjoy video games, but there’s scant evidence that the games cause or contribute to the condition.

Video-game haters like to blame many of society’s ills on Pong and its spawn. The highly lamented “short attention span” of the MTV and Nintendo generations is a prime example. Do computer games encourage this phenomenon? More important, can they contribute to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? It’s a good question, and one that hasn’t been completely answered.

There have been several small studies investigating the issue, and most haven’t found any causal link between video games and ADHD. But there’s a definite chicken-and-egg conundrum here. One recent study of 72 high schoolers found that those who played video games for more than one hour a day showed more symptoms of ADHD than those who played for less time. (Only two kids in this study actually had a diagnosis of ADHD.) On the other hand, experts know that children and teens with ADHD (little of this research involves adults) tend to enjoy the rapid stimulation of playing video games, which could explain the connection without implicating the games.

“More severe symptoms of inattention and ADHD behavior were found in students who played video games for more than one hour,” the researchers noted, but “it is unclear whether playing video games for more than one hour leads to an increase in ADHD symptoms, or whether adolescents with ADHD symptoms spend more time on video games.”

Research has also found that heavy Internet users are more likely to exhibit ADHD symptoms, but again, studies haven’t pinned down any causal effect.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest