We've known for ages that the average videogame player is in his or her thirties, but new research gives a more detailed picture: gamers are fat and miserable, too.

The study, which will be printed in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that gamers were more likely to be couch potatoes and that they had "a greater number of poor mental health days" than non-gamers.

We're not surprised, because gaming can be a pretty depressing business. Just think: thousands of people have spent nearly fifty quid on things such as Transformers 2 or bought those Wii games that you only ever see in supermarkets. They're enough to send anybody over the edge.

Even half-decent games can drive you crazy. You buy the latest shooter, rip off the packaging, fire it up for the first time and end up hurling the controller across the room when you discover that the designers ran out of ideas halfway through and decided just to copy Halo again.

Or you're making progress, getting right into the story, and for no good reason the difficulty level goes into orbit and you're facing the Endlessly and Pointlessly Respawning Boss Monster That Isn't Fun To Kill The First Time Let Alone The Fiftieth Oh And By The Way Every Time You Die You Have To Replay The Twenty Minutes Leading Up To The Boss Fight Because The Designers Hate You.

pwned online

If that wasn't depressing enough, there's online gaming, too. You spend ages playing the single-player campaign until you know every weapon inside out and can kill anything with a single shot, and you go online to face your peers.

Thirty seconds later you've been shot in the face and can only watch as a ten-year-old teabags your twitching corpse.

Or maybe that's not it at all. Maybe it's not that games make us sad; it's that we play games when life gets us down.

According to the study, women gamers in particular may use games as a form of self-medication - that is, when they're feeling grumpy or generally fed up they vent their frustration by bashing zombies in the face with hammers.

It's possible that that can become addictive - "habitual use of video games as a coping response may provided a genesis for obsessive-compulsive video-game playing, if not video-game addiction" - but bashing villains on the TV sounds a damn sight healthier to us than stuffing your face with chocolate while guzzling a bottle of wine and weeping.

So does the study say that games are bad? Not exactly: it's hardly a surprise that there's a correlation between gaming and sedentary lifestyles, and there are of course positive aspects to gaming, too.

It seems that the answer, strangely enough, may be Microsoft's Project Natal and Nintendo's Wii. According to Brian A Primack of the University of Pittsburgh, games such as "hide and seek" and "freeze tag" are "still probably what we need most" - and motion-sensing games deliver pretty similar experiences. Halo: Hide And Seek, anyone?

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