The World Health Organization cited suicide as the second leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 29 in 2012. In the middle of that age range is a time many young people find themselves in college, possibly feeling more lost, anxious, and depressed than they did prior to the transition. While depression can lead to thoughts of suicide, a new study looks to another possible risk factor for suicide: playing hours of action category video games.

The goal of the study, published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, was to examine "the relationship between video game play and the acquired capability for suicide (ACS), as well as the moderating effects of video game category and gender on this relationship," researchers said. To do this, they recruited 228 college students who played video games on a weekly basis. The students were then given three tests to fill out: a video game-play questionnaire that gathered how much time they spent playing games (and which games they played), as well as their psychiatric history; a painful and provocative events scale (PPES); and an ACS scale.

Researchers define the PPES scale as "a 24-item self-report measure of the frequency of participation in various PPEs across the lifetime, utilizing a five-point ordinal response metric. Participants could either respond "never, once, two to three times, four to 20 times, and more than 20 times" when asked how often they participated in painful or provocative events.

The ACS scale, however, is "a self-reported, 20-item measure of a person’s acquired capability for suicide." It uses a five-point metric not unlike the PPES scale, with answers ranging from 0 (not at all like me) to 4 (very much like me).

The results showed playing hours of action video games increased the risk of ACS among students.

"The nature of the interaction between video game category and hours of video game play indicated that there was a significant positive relationship between hours of VG play and ACS when participants reported playing action video games," the researchers wrote. "Therefore, individuals who played more hours of action video games evidenced the highest ACS."

Before you ditch your entire library of video games, know that an "action" video game, per the researchers, consists of "[first] person shooter, horror, fighting, sports, and crime/war-themed games," including but not limited to the Call of Duty series, Halo series, Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil series, Street Fighter series, Mortal Kombat series, Tomb Raider, and Grand Theft Auto series." Hours spent playing other games, like Madden NFL, The Sims, and Tetris, had no significant correlation with ACS.

"[I]ndividuals who play greater hours of action category VGs, which tend to be more violent, evidence the highest ACS even after adjusting for other PPEs," the researchers concluded. "Therefore, these individuals may be at greater risk for a lethal or near-lethal suicide attempt when suicide ideation is present."

Source: Mitchell S, Jahn D, Guidry E, Cukrowicz K. The Relationship Between Video Game Play and the Acquired Capability for Suicide: An Examination of Differences by Category of Video Game and Gender. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. 2016.