Disordered Internet gaming is thought to be perpetuated by one’s need to escape their real-life distress or mental health symptoms, which may in turn generate depressive feelings. Nevertheless, moderate engagement with Internet games has also been suggested to provide relief, thus improving one’s mood. This study aspires to clarify the contribution of Internet gaming and gender in the association between anxiety and depression.
A large sample of Internet gamers (N = 964) were recruited online. Disordered Internet gaming was assessed with the Internet Gaming Disorder Scale, 9 Items Short Form (IGD9S-SF). Anxiety and depression symptoms were assessed using the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale, 21 items (DASS-21).
Regression, moderation and moderated moderation analyses accounting for the effects of gender on the relationship between disordered gaming, anxiety, and depression found a significant effect for anxiety symptoms on depression symptoms and a significant interaction between anxiety and Internet gaming disorder on depression symptoms. Findings support the theory that although anxious gamers bear a higher depression risk, this is buffered with lower and exacerbated with higher disordered gaming symptoms.
Findings suggest a dual role of Internet gaming in the association between anxiety and depression, depending on the intensity of one’s disordered gaming symptoms. Depression prevention and intervention protocols should be optimized by considering the effects of Internet gaming among anxious gamers by focusing on the intensity of a gamer’s involvement and any gaming disorder symptoms. Further research should include clinical samples to better understand this interaction.