Recently, CheckPoint launched an informal social survey about the new augmented reality (AR) game, Pokemon GO, in order to determine whether it has had an impact on the mental health and wellbeing of it’s players. You can find out more about Pokemon GO over at Niantic Labs.
To conduct our social survey, a 9-question online survey was constructed using google forms, and then widely shared on social media (Twitter & Facebook). The survey launched one week after the game was released, and survey responses were collected over the course of 10 days. In total, there were 731 respondents. What a massive response! Thank you to all those who participated in our survey.
There’s an infographic on the left with a summary of the results. And here are some of our key findings.
Who is playing?
The average age of surveyed Pokemon GO players is 24 years of age; and the vast majority of these players are between 16 – 30 years of age (81.3%). While it makes sense that the game predominantly appeals to age groups that previously engaged in the original pokemon series as children, it is still great to see that both older and younger age groups are also playing. A total of 15% of surveyed players are 30+, and 3% are under 16.
Who do we play with?
A majority of players reported that they played Pokemon GO with other people; with friends (68.6%), with family (35.1%), and with new acquaintances via organised Pokemon GO events (14.7%). While people also reported that they played alone (66.2%), it’s important to note that only 16.2% of surveyed players reported that they only ever play alone, the remaining 50% played socially at least some of the time. Furthermore, many surveyed players (27.7%) reported that they played with strangers they met in public. So Pokemon GO has been largely a very social experience for the vast majority of surveyed players, and importantly, a social experience that has connected them with new acquaintances.
Has it had an impact on mental health & wellbeing?
A total of 73.5% of surveyed players reported that their mental health and wellbeing has improved as a result of playing Pokemon GO. 20.5% reported no change in mental health and wellbeing, 4.3% reported ‘other’, and 1.8% reported that it has had a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
In terms of the aspects of the game that has helped players the most, the majority of surveyed players reported the active features of the game as most beneficial; Getting outside (92.7%), Doing exercise (82.2%), Exploring the community (61.7%). Other aspects can be seen in the infographic to the left.
Here are some of the anecdotal responses from players:
“It’s gotten me to go outside a lot more which in itself have improved my mental state. Making me feel refreshed and less prone to anxiety. I also get a great feeling of accomplishment when I capture a new pokemon.”
“As a sufferer of both clinical depression and chronic fatigue syndrome, it’s been very difficult for me to find the energy and/or the motivation to get out of the house. Pokémon Go has allowed me to set goals I can work towards and provides satisfying rewards for meeting them. I think I’ve been more active in the past three days than the prior three months.”
“I’ve interacted with strangers where normally my anxiety would prevent it. I’ve gotten out the house longer and more often and now actually have a common interest with my 10yo.”
What about negative impacts?
A small number of surveyed players (1.8%) reported that the game has had a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing. The main reasons for reporting this negative impact were related to the fear of missing out (55.9% of those reporting negative impact – 0.55% of total surveyed players), and increased feelings of anxiety and social isolation (44.1% of those reporting negative impact – 0.44% of total surveyed players).
Given the active and largely social nature of the game, these findings are understandable. There is a large body of established research about the fear or missing out (FoMO), and increases in social anxiety and isolation, most especially with the advent of social media. Research¹ suggests that while connections that we make using social media and interactive experiences generally enhance feelings of connectedness and decrease isolation, that they may also amplify feelings of missing out and social anxiety, most especially for individuals who report low levels of psychological needs satisfaction (competence, autonomy, relatedness) in their daily lives.
It’s really important to note that the levels of FoMO reported in this study are considerably lower than general levels of FoMO in young adults using social media². It could be that surveyed players are finding the design and low-barrier to entry of playing Pokemon GO actually encourages engagement, allowing players to challenge normal behaviour and instead become active and engaged. While there is certainly anecdotal support that Pokemon GO provides players with higher levels of motivation to play and therefore engage in social setting and active play, there is certainly a need for more rigorous study of the factors that lead to positive and negative outcomes of playing Pokemon GO.
It’s important to note the limitations of these findings. This survey is an informal social survey, not a rigorous scientific study, and the findings represent a summary of anecdotal responses from a non-representative sample of the general population. As such, this study does not illustrate causation or correlation between playing PokemonGO and changes in mental health status. PokemonGO is not a treatment for mental disorder, or a substitute for professional medical or psychological care. If you have concerns about yourself, or someone you know, please refer to our mental health resource page here.
Despite the limitations of our findings, what we have found here with this social survey, is a group of hundreds of people across the world who are, by and large, meeting new people, strengthening existing relationships, walking kilometres that they never would have walked, discovering new places to visit, learning more about their own neighbourhoods, and to a very large extent, feeling a greater sense of health and wellbeing. And that is certainly something wonderful to have captured.