Playing video games may significantly improve a variety of health outcomes, especially those associated with psychological and physical therapy, according to a new study.

Researchers reporting in the June issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine conducted a systemic review of 1,452 published journal articles that evaluated the effect of video games on positive, clinically relevant health consequences.

Out of all of the past studies examined, Dr. Brian Primack, of the University of Pittsburgh, and his group selected 38 randomized controlled studies that met all their inclusion criteria, like studies that used video games to provide physical therapy, psychological therapy, improved disease self-management, health education, distraction from discomfort, increased physical activity, and skills training for clinicians.

Overall, investigators found an that video games improved 69 percent of psychological therapy outcomes, 59 percent of physical therapy outcomes, 50 percent of physical activity outcomes, 46 percent of clinician skills outcomes, 42 percent of health education outcomes, 42 percent of pain distraction outcomes, and 37 percent of disease self-management outcomes.

However, they deemed the general quality of the studies to be of poor quality, noting than 66 percent of the studies had follow-up periods of that were less than 12 weeks and only 11 percent of the studies had blinded researchers.

"Despite these limitations, this comprehensive systematic review demonstrates that video games may have potential for improving health in a wide variety of areas, for a variety of sociodemographic groups," the authors concluded. "This is a valuable finding, particularly given the growing popularity and ubiquity of video games worldwide."

Researchers said that research related to video games and health has mostly focused on their potential for harm, and there have been many studies that show that violence in video games can lead to aggression cognitions and behaviors, desensitization to violence, and decreases in pro-social behavior.

Video games have also been associated with inactivity and the development of obesity, adolescent risk-taking in traffic poor school performance, video game addiction, seizures, motion sickness, and physical injuries related to repetitive strain.

Researchers said that the goal of the latest study was to determine whether video games nay be useful in promoting health and improving disease outcomes.

Primack and his colleagues wrote the latest study is important because it identifies potential health-related benefits from using video games to address a variety of health conditions and sociodemographic groups.

Investigators noted that interestingly, while video game studies generally centered on improving education and disease management in younger participants, many of the studied included in the latest review looked at the positive effects of gaming in older adults between the ages of 50 to 80 years to improve symptoms like age-related postural instability or cognitive decline.

"Although many people associate video gaming with the male gender, 40 percent of players are now female. All studies included in this review included both men/boys and women/girls, and most studies included about half women/girls. It may be valuable for future randomized controlled trials of video games to evaluate whether gender is associated with the efficacy of various video games to improve health outcomes," the authors wrote.