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Online-gaming and mental health: Loot boxes and in-game purchases are related to problematic online gaming and depression in adolescents


Studies have found that adolescents’ in-game purchases are related to psychosocial problems. In-game purchases, including loot boxes—which contain random video game items that can be purchased with real-world money—are new systems; therefore, the associated problems have not been fully examined. This study examined whether adolescents planned their in-game purchases and looked into the issues related to purchasing styles. We surveyed 1,052 Japanese high school students (591 females, 443 males, and 18 others, aged 15–18 years) on their monthly allowance, time spent on online gaming, in-game purchases, gaming problems, and depression symptoms. The results revealed that adolescents who made unplanned purchases reported a greater degree of problems than those who planned their purchases. Among the non-planners, loot box users had poorer mental health than nonuser counterparts. These results revealed the relationship between psychosocial problems and problematic gaming, including unplanned purchases and the use of loot boxes among adolescents. Therefore, these relationships become important areas to focus on, to understand problematic online gaming.

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Correspondence to Tomonari Irie.

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Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the research ethics committee of Hokusho University and with the 1975 Helsinki Declaration.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Author TI, Author HS, Author MT, and Author KY declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Irie, T., Shinkawa, H., Tanaka, M. et al. Online-gaming and mental health: Loot boxes and in-game purchases are related to problematic online gaming and depression in adolescents. Curr Psychol 42, 20515–20526 (2023).

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