7 Negative Effects of Playing Video Games That Prove They Harm Your Health

From your ears to your eyes, your shoulders to your skin, here's how playing video games damages your body.

More than 164 million American adults play video games. Of course, like anything else in life, if you're gaming in moderation, it can be a fun way to disconnect from the real world for a little while. But the average amount of time people tend to spend gaming per week is rapidly increasing: According to Limelight Networks' The State of Online Gaming 2019 report, adult gamers worldwide are playing an average of seven hours and seven minutes of video games each week, which is a 20 percent increase compared to 2018. Sure, it might seem like a harmless escape, but if you're spending that much time gaming, it's important to be aware of the risks involved. From vision problems to wrist injuries, here are some of the negative effects of video games on your health, according to medical professionals and scientific studies.

They cause shoulder pain.

woman rubbing her shoulder

One of the more painful negative effects of video games is shoulder pain. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Elbow and Shoulder Surgery found that playing video games for more than three hours per day was linked to shoulder pain in elite young male baseball players. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this is likely due to poor posture (sitting in a hunched position) while playing video games.

They give you carpal tunnel.

Woman with cast on wrist, changes over 40

Baseball and video gaming actually became a hot topic in May 2018, when Boston Red Sox pitcher and Fortnite lover David Price developed carpal tunnel syndrome. And in interviews, Price said he would stop video gaming at the ballpark as a result. "His remarks led to speculation about repetitive video game play and its effect on the hands and arms of ball players," notes Brian Lee, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles.

Whether Fortnite actually caused Price's carpal tunnel is up for debate, but the link between the condition and video games isn't. As the Cleveland Clinic notes, both computer games and console games involve rapid, repeated movements of the wrist and hand, which is how carpal tunnel syndrome develops.

And tendonitis.

Man wearing a brace with wrist pain

Carpal tunnel isn't the only wrist issue that video games can cause. As the Cleveland Clinic notes, gamers often develop hand and wrist overuse problems like tendonitis, which is painful inflammation of the thick tissue that attaches your bone to your muscle.

They lead to neck pain.

Man looking at his phone and rubbing his neck in pain

As if wrist and shoulder pain isn't enough, spending too much time playing video games can also cause neck pain. According to the results of a 2019 survey carried out by health insurers Mutualités Libres, 60 percent of gamers between the ages of 12 and 23 reported physical symptoms such as neck pain.

And in 2017, chiropractic physician Cheryl Vincent, DC, cautioned gamers about the risk of what she refers to as "Nintendo neck." Vincent told KRON4 that because most people hunch and slouch their shoulders while playing video games, the added weight of your head puts pressure on the discs in your neck, thus causing pain and discomfort.

They damage your vision.

Man getting his eyes checked at the eye doctor

In 2018, the American Optometric Association (APA) cautioned gamers that staring at video games for extended periods of time can cause what's referred to as "digital eye strain," which also occurs after spending hours in front of a computer or cell phone screen. Long-term digital eye strain can result in reduced visual abilities, such as blurred distance vision.

In a statement, the APA recommended that gamers follow the 20-20-20 rule, which calls for staring at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds after every 20 minutes of video gameplay. And anyone already experiencing eye strain should make an appointment with their eye doctor to discuss their gaming habits and what steps to take to prevent lasting vision problems.

And they impair your hearing.

Man wearing a video game headset and playing video games on his computer

It's probably not a shock to learn that video games can harm your hearing, too, as HearWell Audiology, Inc. notes. That's because repeated exposure to loud sounds can damage the tiny hairs in your cochlea, which are responsible for picking up vibrations and sending them to the brain to be interpreted as sounds.

Those at the greatest risk of hearing loss are players who use earbuds or headsets. Just like when you're listening to music, turning up the volume to a high level on a gaming headset can cause long-term hearing damage.

They ruin your skin.

Close up Girl applying aloe gel to problematic skin with acne scars, Health care products at medical industry. girl gently touches her forehead with pimples on her skin.

This may not be an obvious health issue, but Alain Michon, MD, medical director at Ottawa Skin Clinic, says video games can negatively impact your skin, too. "Gamers will rarely clean their controller, accumulating it with grease, bacteria, and other germs," he explains. "When this is the case, users will often touch their face—as most people do—but their hands may be dirtier than most thanks to an unclean controller." As a result, gamers are more susceptible to issues like acne and other skin irritations.

Caitlin Flynn
Caitlin Flynn is an award-winning writer and reporter who experienced early age corporate burnout in 2015 and traded New York City for the misty air and superior coffee of Seattle. Read more
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