Leisure and problem gaming behaviors among children and adolescents during school closures caused by covid-19 in hong kong: Quantitative cross-sectional survey study

Shimin Zhu, Yanqiong Zhuang, Paul Lee, Jessica Chi-Mei Li, Paul W.C. Wong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Background: School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated students' loneliness, addictive gaming behaviors, and poor mental health. These mental health issues confronting young people are of public concern. Objective: This study aimed to examine the associations between loneliness and gaming addiction behaviors among young people in Hong Kong and to investigate how familial factors, psychological distress, and gender differences moderate these relationships. Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted in June 2020 when schools reopened after 6 months of school closures. Participants included 2863 children and adolescents in primary (Grades 4 to 6) and secondary (Grades 7 and 8) schools (female participants: 1502/2863, 52.5%). Chi-square tests, one-way analyses of variance, and independent-samples t tests were performed to compare the differences of distribution in gaming addiction behaviors across gender, age, and other sociodemographic characteristics. Multinomial logistic regression analyses were conducted to identify factors that relate to excessive or pathological gaming behaviors separately, in comparison with leisure gaming. Results: A total of 83.0% (2377/2863) of the participants played video games during the COVID-19 pandemic. The prevalence of excessive and pathological game addiction behaviors was 20.9% (597/2863) and 5.3% (153/2863), respectively. More male students had gaming addiction symptoms than female students. The multinomial logistic regressions showed that feeling lonely was associated with more problematic gaming behaviors, and the association was stronger for older female students. Low socioeconomic status, less parental support and less supervision, and poor mental health were risk factors for gaming addiction behaviors, especially among primary school students. Conclusions: Loneliness was associated with gaming addiction behaviors; the findings from this study suggested that this association was similar across gender and age groups among young people. Familial support and supervision during school closures can protect young people from developing problematic gaming behaviors. Results of this study have implications for prevention and early intervention on behalf of policy makers and game developers.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere26808
JournalJMIR Serious Games
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 lockdown
  • Excessive gaming
  • Familial factors
  • Leisure gaming
  • Loneliness
  • Pathological gaming
  • School closure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


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