Playing popular video games could have a positive impact on mental health, according to new Irish research.
The study was carried out by Lero, Science Foundation Ireland's Centre for Software.
There are now an estimated 2.7 billion people worldwide who play video games, with an average age of 34.
The Irish researchers found that games can offer "low-cost, easy access, effective and stigma-free support" for some mental health issues, in particular depression and anxiety.
It says games could be particularly helpful where conventional therapies or treatments are not available due to cost or location, or could also be used in addition to traditional treatments.
Lero researcher Dr Mark Campbell says gaming has had many positive influences.
He told Newstalk Breakfast: “The benefits of gaming are multi-faceted really. Traditionally, here in the e-sports science lab at the University of Limerick, we would have looked at the cognitive benefits of gaming - so the ability to process information quicker, to concentrate better and so on.
“Due to COVID, we had a bit of time on our hands so we started looking at the overall benefits of gaming. We did a big review of the literature and found that gaming can really benefit mental health symptoms - especially, in our review, depression and anxiety symptoms."
Dr Campbell said the majority of gamers are now very "socially connected".
He explained: "They don’t play on their own - they play with friends. They’re not socially isolated: the idea of a young boy at home on his own playing video games is a very outdated one.
“For people who play video games, it’s a lovely chance to achieve goals and communicate on a team towards shared objectives.
"Happiness, joy, appreciation... all these things can help target loneliness."