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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The association between online gaming, social phobia, and depression: an internet survey

Han-Ting Wei1, Mu-Hong Chen1, Po-Cheng Huang2 and Ya-Mei Bai13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan

2 Department of Rehabilitation, Taipei Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan

3 Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, National Yang-Ming University, No.201, Sec. 2, Shipai Rd, Taipei City, Beitou District, Taiwan

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BMC Psychiatry 2012, 12:92  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-12-92

Published: 28 July 2012



Online gaming technology has developed rapidly within the past decade, and its related problems have received increasing attention. However, there are few studies on the psychiatric symptoms associated with excessive use of online games. The aim of this study is to investigate the characteristics of online gamers, and the association between online gaming hours, social phobia, and depression using an internet survey.


An online questionnaire was designed and posted on a popular online game websites, inviting the online gamers to participate the survey. The content of the questionnaire included demographic data, profiles of internet usage and online gaming, and self-rating scales of Depression and Somatic Symptoms Scale (DSSS), Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN), and Chen Internet Addiction Scale (CIAS).


A total of 722 online gamers with a mean age of 21.8 ± 4.9 years completed the online survey within one month. 601 (83.2%) participants were male, and 121 (16.8%) were female. The mean weekly online gaming time was 28.2 ± 19.7 hours, which positively associated with history of online gaming (r = 0.245, p < 0.001), total DSSS (r = 0.210, p < 0.001), SPIN (r = 0.150, p < 0.001), and CIAS (r = 0.290, p < 0.001) scores. The female players had a shorter history of online gaming (6.0 ± 3.1 vs. 7.2 ± 3.6 years, p = 0.001) and shorter weekly online gaming hours (23.2 ± 17.0 vs. 29.2 ± 20.2 hours, p = 0.002), but had higher DSSS (13.0 ± 9.3 vs. 10.9 ± 9.7, p = 0.032) and SPIN (22.8 ± 14.3 vs. 19.6 ± 13.5, p = 0.019) scores than the male players. The linear regression model showed that higher DSSS scores were associated with female gender, higher SPIN scores, higher CIAS scores, and longer weekly online gaming hours, with controlling for age and years of education.


The online gamers with longer weekly gaming hours tended to have a longer history of online gaming, and more severe depressive, social phobic, and internet addiction symptoms. Female online gamers had fewer weekly online gaming hours and a shorter previous online gaming history, but tended to have more severe somatic, pain, and social phobic symptoms. The predictors for depression were higher social phobic symptom, higher internet addiction symptoms, longer online gaming hours, and female gender.