Female gamers risk weight gains
Young women who play computer games an hour or more per day have a higher chance of getting fat than ones who don’t. The Swedish study oddly found no comparable results among male gamers.
Researcher Sara Thomée of the University of Gothenburg followed upwards of 2,500 men and women born in 1983-87 through their responses to three questionnaires sent to them three times in the course of five years.
She wished to find out how the use of computers, for example for e-mail, chatting and gaming, affected the participants’ body mass indexes (BMI). BMI is a formula that shows the balance between height and weight.
The participants were picked randomly from a registry of the total Swedish population and answered the questionnaire in 2006, 2007 and 2012.
Women who gamed over an hour a day were more likely to become overweight than women who didn’t. The young women who gamed two hours a day and who initially had a normal weight-to-height ratio gained an average of 3.7 kg in the course of the five-year period.
“The calculations took into account other risk factors for overweight and obesity, such as age, employment, total time spent on computers, physical activity, sleep and the participants’ evaluations of their own social networks,” says Thomée in a press release to expertsvar.se.
No comparable links to weight problems were found among male gamers. Nor did Thomée find similar connections between fatness in men and women who spent the same amount of computer time chatting or e-mailing.
The researcher has found no clear explanation as to why this could be, but she suggests possible causes. Questions about diet were not included in the study.
Could female gamers overeat more than their male counterparts? Can lack of sleep have more of an effect on women than with regard to weight? Or could the sedentary activity of gaming among men be interrupted by physical activity more often among men?
Espen Svendsen Gjevestad researches obesity and lifestyle and works at the Vestfold Hospital Trust. He is not surprised that computer gaming can lead to overweight, but he is perplexed that gender played in as it did. He thinks that the drop-outs of the prospective cohort study might have had an impact on the results.
“The initial attempt was to recruit 10,000 men and 10,000 women, but after five years there were only 1,636 women and 957 men participating in the study. Since fewer men were involved, it could be that they had a ‘healthier’ point of departure than the women,” says Gjevestad.
Gjevestad thinks the assessments themselves could be a source of error:
“Could it be that women report their own weights in another way and maybe more accurately than men? Can there be differences in how they remember their own computer activities with regard to how much was spent on games, e-mails and chatting?”
Thomée’s study measured the effect of up to two hours of computer gaming per day.
“A study of what happens with weight beyond two hours of gaming might show that intensive gaming is also a risk factor among men,” speculates Thomée.
She wrote in her study that “it seems necessary to investigate more closely which mechanisms can be at play in the suggested weight development”.
Read the Norwegian version of this article at forskning.no
Translated by: Glenn Ostling
- Sara Thomée et al.: Leisure time computer use and overweight development in young adults – a prospective study. BMC Public Health, September 2015. doi:10.1186/s12889-015-2131-5.