Effects of Serious Games on Depression in Older Adults: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Yesol Kim, Soomin Hong, Mona Choi

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Depression is a severe psychological concern that negatively affects health in older adults. Serious games applied in various fields are considered appropriate interventions, especially in mental health care. However, there is a lack of evidence regarding the effects of serious games on depression in older adults. Objective: This study aimed to investigate the characteristics and effectiveness of serious games for depression in older adults. Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials were conducted. In total, 5 electronic databases (PubMed, CINAHL, Embase, PsycINFO, and Cochrane Library) were searched to identify relevant studies published until July 6, 2021. A total of 2 reviewers independently conducted study selection, data extraction, and quality appraisals. The risk of bias in the included studies was assessed using the JBI Critical Appraisal Checklist. For the meta-analysis, the effect size was calculated as the standardized mean difference (SMD) by using a random effects model. Results: A total of 17 studies with 1280 older adults were included in the systematic review, and 15 studies were included in the meta-analysis. Serious game interventions were classified into 3 types: physical activity (PA), cognitive function, and both PA and cognitive function. The meta-analysis demonstrated that serious games reduced depression in older adults (SMD −0.54, 95% CI −0.79 to −0.29; P<.001). Serious games had a more significant effect size in community or home settings (SMD −0.61, 95% CI −0.95 to −0.26; P<.001) than in hospital settings (SMD −0.46, 95% CI −0.85 to −0.08; P=.02); however, the difference between groups was not significant. Among the types of games, games for PA (SMD −0.60, 95% CI −0.95 to −0.25; P<.001) and games for both (SMD −0.73, 95% CI −1.29 to −0.17; P=.01) had a significant effect on reducing depression in older adults. However, no significant correlations were observed between the duration or number of serious games and depression. Conclusions: Serious games were beneficial in reducing depression in older adults. Regardless of the study setting, serious games appeared to reduce depression. Particularly, serious games including PA had a significant impact on reducing depression. Furthermore, high-quality randomized controlled trials are needed to establish substantial evidence for the effectiveness of serious games on depression in older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere37753
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Sept 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Brain Korea 21 FOUR Project funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea, Yonsei University College of Nursing, and Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Ministry of Education (2020R1A6A1A03041989). This research was also supported by a 2020 grant from Yonsei University College of Nursing.

Publisher Copyright:
©Yesol Kim, Soomin Hong, Mona Choi.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Informatics


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