A new research has proved that playing games on computer can be just as effective as treating a patient of depression through one-on-one counseling. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Auckland by doctors from New Zealand, and the study report was published online by British Medical Journal (BMJ) this week.

According to the study, most of the adolescents hate to seek professional help for mental health issues. To tackle this, the researchers developed an interactive fantasy game called Sparx that allows each player to choose an avatar and then take on a series of seven challenges over a span of four to seven weeks to restore balance in a virtual world overrun by ‘Gnats’ (Gloomy Negative Automatic Thoughts). The research was conducted on 94 youngsters who were diagnosed with depression and whose average age was 15 and a half.

Around 44% of the players who carried out at least four of the seven challenges recovered completely. In the conventional treatment group, only 26% recovered fully. The participants gave a high rating to Sparx, saying they liked being able to use it at home and to learn playing it at their own pace.

“Use of the program resulted in a clinically significant reduction in depression, anxiety and hopelessness, and an improvement in quality of life,” said Sally Merry, an associate professor at the Department of Psychological Medicine, and the leader of the research team.

Visit bmj.com to view the complete findings of this study.