Digital and video games in health promotion: Systematic review of games and health behavior
Games have gained interest as a way to promote health, ability to function and rehabilitation in digital environments or conjoining physical and digital environments. Most studies have focused on risks and problems in using games for health. In this review, the aim is to describe the use of digital and video games in health promotion. Especially, what kind of games are used in health promotion and how they support the change in health behavior. MEDLINE Ovid, CINAHL (EBSCO), PubMed and Cochrane Library databases were searched using terms related to digital or video games and health behavior. A search focused on years 2005-2014 and identified 3237 publications.
Thirty studies met the criteria and two thirds of them used experimental design. The number of participants in the interventions were small in general. Most studies focused on physical activity and enjoyment of playing. Five studies considered nutrition and dietary habits. The most used video game console was Nintendo Wii. The results indicated that video games increased light- and moderate-intensity activities, adherence to medication, knowledge on disease and healthy behavior. Furthermore, games relaxed and alleviated depressive symptoms. There was no evidence that the games achieved sustained changes in health behavior. Only short-term changes were reported.
Our review suggests that games for health are suitable for all-aged and promote their short-term health behavior. More studies are needed in order to indicate the long-term effects of games for health. Furthermore, more effective, tailored and enjoyable games are needed in health promotion to achieve sustained changes in health behavior of all individuals.