New Study: Violent Games Affect Heart Rate, Sleep Patterns in Boys

New research from Sweden indicates that violent video games affect boys’ heart rate and sleep,a ccording to Science Daily.

The study, conducted by researchers from Stockholm University, Uppsala University and Karolinska Institute, tracked 12-15-year-old boys who were asked to play two different games:

The heart rate variability was affected to a higher degree when the boys were playing games focusing on violence compared with games without violent features. Differences in heart rate variability were registered both while the boys were playing the games and when they were sleeping that night. The boys themselves did not feel that they had slept poorly after having played violent games.

The results show that the autonomous nerve system, and thereby central physiological systems in the body, can be affected when you play violent games without your being aware of it. It is too early to draw conclusions about what the long-term significance of this sort of influence might be. What is important about this study is that the researchers have found a way, on the one hand, to study what happens physiologically when you play video or computer games and, on the other hand, to discern the effects of various types of games.

The Sewdish researchers hope that their work may also have some implications for the study of so-called game addiction.

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  1. Counsel says:

    What the article says is

     "The heart rate variability was affected to a higher degree when the boys were playing games focusing on violence compared with games without violent features."

    Is this expected?  I think so–a game with no sudden drama or activity that activates the "fight or flight" reaction might leave a more steady, less variable, heartrate than a game that, without notification, suddenly threw a monster on the screen, showed your character/toon getting shot or shot at, or otherwise interacted with you in any sense that made the Epinephrine (also referred to as adrenaline) kick in…

    Non-violent games may not release as much epinephrine.  I’d love to see the levels of epinephrine and their release during the gameplay and what caused the release. 

    Either way, this is going to happen watching movies, on Halloween, etc., and I don’t think we remove freedoms just because it may be healthier for the general population.

    Imagine if you could not drink alcohol, eat candy, drink soda, due to these reasons… There would be another Tea Party and Revolution.

    Freedoms are to be protected, not removed.  That is what I stand for…


  2. JC says:

    Customer service employees and post men are all at risk *gasp* /sarcasm

    Anything can affect heart rate because adrenaline pumps or you get stress.

  3. NovaBlack says:

    Ill repost what i posted above. You are obviously still as illiterate as ever. Learn to read before you post.

    yeah i kinda dont get it…


    surely EVERYTHING that a user finds ‘exciting’ increases your heart rate? thats a symptom of being in the emotional state of ‘excitement’. Thats how wee feel excited.

    So all this study says is.. some players felt excited.. others didnt.. and those that felt excited didnt sleep as well.

    I mean suprise.. ask any 12-15 year old on xmas eve wether excitement makes them sleep worse… obvious.. but would we ban christmas as a result? is christmans ‘dangerous’? No.


    Obviously games have some effect. Why the heck would anyone play them, or watch movies , or read books etc if it had absolutely no emotional effect on the user. Excitement is just one of many effects. Nobody has said otherwise. What evil manipulative little men like you do, is twist that obvious fact to illogical extremes, saying that as soon as we can show something makes you ‘excited’ thats the same as saying it turns you into a killer. it isnt. whatsover.

    To put it another way… Have you ever arranged to go to your favourite restaurant with a group of friends, and  when you arrive are REALLY hungry, and ordered your favourite dish? do you enjoy that, or ever get a feeling of excitement a few days before when you’ve just arranged everything, are looking forward to seeing all your friends, and enjoying some great food? its the same thing. you get get excited waiting at the table thinking about how in 10 minutes your going to be enjoying the worlds best steak / dessert or whatever. you get excited about seeing friends you havent seen in a long while. Thats NORMAL. what you are saying is that anyone in that scenario, is suddenly proven likely to commit a violent act, because they experience excitement. That is such a stupid leap of logic its untrue.

    I mean what a sad lonely life it must be to be a walking automaton unable to feel any emotion or excitement whatsoever. No wonder you are so bitter.

  4. CyberSkull says:

    Any particularly intense sequence in any type of game can get the heart racing. The brain needs blood to tell the thumbs to move!

  5. Baruch_S says:

    Wow, people paid to have this study done? Violent games are tense and will cause heightened adrenaline levels; of course someone playing a violent game will have a higher heart rate. The sleeping heartrate isn’t a big surprise either. I know that I will have dreams about a game (or a book or movie for that matter) if I spend enough time focused on it during the day. If I spend my day shooting zombies and then have dreams about shooting zombies, I think my heartrate isn’t going to be a little higher. Besides, if the kids don’t feel tired either way, who cares?

  6. PrawnStar says:

    Did you read through the paper?  Clearly you didn’t, because you would have seen what games they chose.  The journal they published it in is a respected peer reviewed journal. 

    Seriously, read it before criticizing it. 

    Edit:  Sorry, that’s supposed to be for PoisonedV.

  7. PoisonedV says:

    Interesting study. Horrible procedure.

    I’m tired of these goddamn ‘pop culture’ studies- how about you do a real study, observers blind, with a WORKING, sensical control group, several varieties of games (I’m sure they chose all action games as VIOLENT while the ‘non violent’ games were slow-trodding JRPGs) of non-violent and violent degrees with low and high pacing on both regards, published in a respected, peer reviewed journal with critical analysis by one or more major scientific groups, and full disclosure to the readers.

    But no.

  8. GrimCW says:

    i coulda told ya that…

    i get a good thump thump going when in a tense situation (such as being the last guy alive on my team and half the enemy still there :/ )

    its no differant to me than a game of paintball though, its a game and once its over the heart slows back down. done and done.

  9. Afirejar says:

    Manhunt? In a study involving 12 year olds? Seriously?

    In Germany, this study would have been a criminal offense.

  10. DavCube says:

    No one ever said that. Ever. You know this, so stop saying they did.

    Tch, why bother trying to actually shove reality in your face, it’s a lost cause with you.

    The point of this article was that it was a waste of money. Why? Because everyone already knew this. Yes, including your fictional ‘frontal-lobe-fried’ friends. Entertainment of almost every sort raises heart rates. What’s next, a study that men generally act in a less-than-professional manner towards women at Hooters?

    David "DavCube" Gagnon, User of Common Sense, and You’re Not.

  11. mredria says:

    And they should! People with office jobs are always shootin people and beating their wives and drinking and doing other socially unacceptable things. AND ON TOP OF IT SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE THEM! We’re all at risk until this threat is taken care of. It’s just a cryin’ shame.

    -I apologize-

  12. Michael Chandra says:

    Could have told them that, really. Also, why let 12-15 year old peeps play a game where you beat people to dead rather than using guns? I know Max Payne seems less bad to me than Prince of Persia. In the second I deliberately turned the gore off because I didn’t like it.

  13. Doomsong says:

    It’s like I still tell my mom as a 30 year old gamer/ parent:

    Say all you want about my gaming… but also remember that it’s not crack.

    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety" – Benjamin Franklin

  14. Derovius says:


     Yeah, I’ve applied my super genius powers and have come to the following conclusion:

       Pedophiles are a danger to our children.

     That is all.

  15. Monolith says:

    I’m not surprised. Just thinking about scenes from my book are enough to give me adreniline rushes to the point where I have to get up and move or do something. So to summarize:

    Exciting images/thoughts = adreniline = faster heart rate. Nothing new at all.

  16. PrawnStar says:

    Not a problem.   

    I was working as a research associate at a lab that was focusing on the impact on physiology in regards to driving and mental tasks while driving.  Did a bit of work with heart rate, but not HRV.  However, it did come up enough for me to realize that there is a big difference between the two.

    The interesting part of this is that it extends into sleep.  I’m curious how long into sleep that they are seeing increased HRV.  Given that sleep is extremely important, this could actually have health implications.  It would also be interesting to see the impact of other media on HRV before sleep, and the impact over time (playing violent vs. non-violent games before sleep for a week, a month, etc).


  17. Shadow D. Darkman says:



    "Game on, brothers and sisters." -Leet Gamer Jargon

  18. mogbert says:

    Let’s spin this a positive way, since they are trying the negative:

    Exciting Video Games can increase Cardio!

    Need to get your heart rate up and keep it there? Try an exciting game! 

    Wait, let me redo that last line.


    New studies have shown that exciting games can raise the pulse rate in 12 to 15 year olds, and unlike that treadmill, these kids can play as long as you let them. Scientists say that it is too early to draw conclusions on the benefits of this versus stenuous exercize, but what is important is that they have found a way to keep your cardio up, even when you are down!

  19. Derovius says:

     As I understand it, any sort of stimuli before bedtime is a bad thing. Be it television, sex, alcohol, drugs, etc. Best way to ensure a good nights rest, as per my best recollection, was to do something that required only one or two senses (i.e. reading) and remain as mellow as possible.

  20. Jack says:

    Can we file this under "no shit"?


    Watch a comedy before bed and the laughter will put you at ease and in a more relaxed state. Now watch Cloverfield before bed and if you’re the type who likes to immerse yourself film then you’re going to be jittery when you go to bed.

    Video games, especially violent ones always raise heartl levels because you’re (depending on the game) scared, anxious from persuit, concentrating under a lot of pressure. If you’re playing something relaxing then *SHOCKER* you’re going to be at ease sub consiously or just plain ol’ consiously.

  21. PrawnStar says:

    You are all missing that the difference is in heart rate variability, not heart rate.  An increase in heart rate is to be expected, regardless of what activity is being performed.  Heart rate variability is the measure of beat to beat variations in heart rate.  Your heart rate is not constant and having a certain level of variability is a good thing.  However, this article doesn’t state how they compare to the norm of simply resting without playing games before going to sleep or the possible impact of having a higher HRV.  If HRV after violent games > HRV after non-violent games > HRV normally, playing games in general before going to sleep could possibly be a bad thing.  If HRV after violent games > HRV after non-violent games = HRV normally, then it’s possible that playing violent games before going to sleep is a bad thing.  I’m not familiar enough with HRV during sleep to make a judgement one way or another.

    I’m really more interested in seeing the actual publication instead of an article summary.

  22. barra_sadei says:

    Don’t forget the young whippernsappers with their "Rock and Roll!" It’s neither rock nor roll! And it makes them thornicate!

  23. K-OSS says:

    I might be going out on a limb with this one, but the symptoms sound like another problem in young people these days: Excitement.

    What with their dancing and their soda pops and their loud music…

  24. Andrew Eisen says:

    To be fair, the authors of the study haven’t drawn any conclusions one way or the other.

    Was the study poorly done?  Can’t say at this point because I haven’t read it.  Can’t find it (though I admit I only spent about two minutes looking).  What I’m most interested in learning is just how much of an increase in heart rate we’re talking about here.


    Andrew Eisen

  25. strathmeyer says:

    Wow, talk about bad science. What were the game involved? Is anyone suprised that someone playing Halo would have a higher heart rate than someone playing Bejeweled? Perhaps they should compare game with both violent and non-violent ways to win, such as Nethack, Metal Gear Solid, or Fallout? But then they wouldn’t find a different, and then nobody would take any notice of their study. Isn’t this moral bankruptcy?

  26. jsmuli2 says:

    Shouldn’t be filed under the "NO SHIT" section?


    How about movies, debates, sports, TV, sex…with yourself…


    SEriously, i think these researchers just focus on video games because they know some major newspaper will pick it up eventually.




  27. doewnskitty says:

    Which was pretty much the bread and butter of those particular two genres of movie.

    It could be better summed up as "Anything with intense or viscereal impact can affect heart rate, sleep patterns."

    Hell, I’ve even gotten worked up over reading a book on occasion, even news articles.  The only games that I can think of that would reasonably excite the heart rate that aren’t Wii Sports games are ones that have the sort of "pop out" scares, such as Doom 3 before it got too repetitive, and for me, Manhunt the first for me because sometimes I’d think I was safe in the shadows and suddenly "HE’S OVER HERE!" and otherwise games that are more competitive in nature like playing a close capture the flag match in Halo 3.

    Besides, boredom isn’t particularly the aim in the pursuit of leisure.

  28. Andrew Eisen says:

    Can’t find the study itself.  Like to know important facts like what games were played, how much of a heart rate increase, etc.

    So video games (like countless other activities) increase your heart rate.  So what?

    "It is too early to draw conclusions about what the long-term significance of this sort of influence might be."

    Oh.  Okay then.


    Andrew Eisen

  29. PoisonedV says:

    I had read through the study, but I was referring to, like I mentioned earlier, these ‘pop culture’ surveys in general that are either originating by bad methodology or have the results skewed by media spinsters. This one wasn’t particularly bad- but there is still room for improvement.

  30. Afirejar says:

    The thing is, violent games are almost always action games (I’m sure for testing purposes they chose mainly FPS-style games) which are always more intense than, say, a turn-based RPG

    I believe, that is the single fundamental flaw all these gaming studies suffer from. At least half the studies I read about during the last few years duplicate results I first read about more than a decade ago. (If only I had recognized the significance back then, it’s virtually impossible to dig up by now.) The only difference is the narrower scope, only studying the effects of violent games instead of games with action-oriented gameplay in general. The results haven’t varied much in all these years: "Exciting games are exciting."

  31. finaleve says:

    The L4D demo is probably the most heart racing game I’ve played, mostly because it isn’t as predictable as games are these days.  I keep coming around every corner slowly just in case there’s a swarm.

    But yeah, they do not include the other forms of gaming.  I’m sure an intense game of tetris could make the heart race too, but probably not as much as a horror or shooter.

  32. Geoff says:

    Meh, slanted and sloppy research, mostly because they did not compare it to other activites.

    What about watching or playing sports?  How about after watching a horror movie or reading a suspense novel?  Maybe after playing a game of paintball?

    The thing is, violent games are almost always action games (I’m sure for testing purposes they chose mainly FPS-style games) which are always more intense than, say, a turn-based RPG, so why is it so surprisng that your heart rate increases?  I know my blood was pumping hardcore last night while I was playing the Left4Dead demo.  (Note: Do NOT get the Witch’s attention.  She’ll F you up really fast.)  So what I’m wondering is do the same symptoms appear after the kid participates in an equally intense activity? 

    Also I do not see anywhere in the article that informs us how long after playing the game the boys went to sleep, nor does it seem to take into account the many other possible biological/psychological reasons a person’s heart rate may be higher.

    All I’m saying is that it seems to target video games and only video games without attempting to look at other factors. 


    Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cook-book! Little Red Cook-book!

  33. Zerodash says:

    My heart rate goes up when I play games, and most games out there contain violence of some sort (even Pac Man).  Its just a matter of actively doing something rather than sitting on your ass staring at a movie or book…

  34. NovaBlack says:

    yeah i kinda dont get it…


    surely EVERYTHING that a user finds ‘exciting’ increases your heart rate? thats a symptom of being in the emotional state of ‘excitement’. Thats how wee feel excited.

    So all this study says is.. some players felt excited.. others didnt.. and those that felt excited didnt sleep as well.

    I mean suprise.. ask any 12-15 year old on xmas eve wether excitement makes them sleep worse… obvious.. but would we ban christmas as a result? is christmans ‘dangerous’? No.

  35. mogbert says:

    New study:

    Watching scary movies affect the heart rate of their viewers!

    Aerobic Exercize affects peoples heart rate!

    Some Classical Music affects peoples heart rate!

    LOVE affects peoples heart rate!

    Isn’t this study a little stupid? I’m sorry, but if they got a government grant to pay for this, people should get their taxes back.

    The word they are looking for isn’t "violent", it is "exciting." To try and spin "exciting" as "violent" is the worst form of slanting the study. These people should be driven out of psuedo-science.

  36. Hackangel says:

    Could violent games affect heart rate? Sudoku Gridmaster and Cooking Mama do not gives me any adrenaline rush but Dead Space sure does (and it sure might troube my sleep to boot). So It’s a distinct possibility but does the study how the heart rates were affected?

  37. JC says:

    I wonder how long until someone screams that you’re going to have heart failure if you’re playing violent video games.

  38. Zevorick says:

    It makes sense to me at least. The autonomic nervous system, and even the autonomic system of thought are outside of the realm of consciousness for themost part. Odds are though, we aren’t talking about a huge difference, and I’d like to see the effect size of this study before drawing too many dastardly conclusions about the researchers.

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