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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 July, 2005, 23:49 GMT 00:49 UK
Computer game play 'aids health'
Gizmondo handheld gaming console
Computer games can be good for your health, it is claimed
Computer games can improve children's health despite research showing excessive playing causes aggression in the young, a new study claims.

Nottingham Trent University professor Mark Griffiths said they can be a powerful distraction for youngsters undergoing painful cancer treatment.

He also argues games can help develop social skills for children with attention disorders including autism.

Mr Griffith's claims are made in the British Medical Journal out on Friday.

The professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University said more research must be done into both the positive and negative effects of gaming.

'Research trivialised'

He said: "Video gaming is safe for most players and can be useful in healthcare.

"Although playing video games is one of the most popular leisure activities in the world, research into its effects on players, both positive and negative, is often trivialised.

"Some of this research deserves to be taken seriously, not least because video game playing has implications for health."

He also claims research shows computer games can provide "cognitive distraction" among patients undergoing chemotherapy and treatment for sickle cell disease.

He added that studies reported distracted patients had less nausea and lower blood pressure than controls who were simply asked to rest after treatment.

'Study addiction'

The BMJ article also acknowledges on-going research into the potentially harmful side-effects of video games, particularly among young boys.

Adverse effects - included aggressiveness, auditory hallucinations, repetitive strain injuries and obesity - have also been reported, but firm evidence is lacking, according to Mr Griffiths.

He said: "On balance, there is little evidence that moderate frequency of play has serious adverse effects, but more evidence is needed on excessive play and on defining what constitutes excess in the first place.

"There should also be long-term studies of the course of video game addiction."

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