Key Mental health benefits of board games

Is this brain train real?

Hi there!

I bet you have heard something about board game benefits to your health. Maybe something like “board games are your brain’s workout”. Generally – you are right, board games are beneficial to your mental health.

But often people are unsure about what are the facts & details related to that. As the result, get ready to kick start your expertise in academic benefits of board games. Bullet proof your arguments before bating your spouses, grandmas, kids & friends to join your gaming sessions!

Or – maybe this will bate you to try some board games as well.

 1. Board games help to cope with depression & anxiety.

One would think that board games are a good instrument to shift your mind’s focus from some issues, troublesome & negative thoughts. I could not argue with that, but there is much more to it.

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

One study [1] has researched Chinese Alzheimer’s patients, by recruiting 147 patients to test Go game (Chinese traditional board game) effects on Alzheimer’s treatment & relief. The patients were assigned to three different groups – the ones playing GO-game daily for 1 hour (for 6 months period), the other group playing 2 hours daily (also for 6 months period), and the last group who did not play at all.

The study indicates that Alzheimer’s patients often have increased anxiety & depression levels. Given the fact that their anxiety & depression are monitored very often routinely, this makes them a great target audience to not only test how board games help to treat mental diseases and their symptoms, but also check the effects on anxiety & depression levels.

Speaking about the results, they were stunning. The statistical differences were spotted for almost every depression & anxiety test when comparing the non-playing group versus the other two groups who played the GO-game.

To summarize the findings, there were considerably fewer Alzheimer’s patients who had depression & anxiety symptoms between patients that played the Go. And for those who still had the symptoms, the extent of these symptoms was weaker. This includes feeling sad, down, lack of energy, feeling angry, and even thoughts of low self-value or hurting yourself.

What we can learn from that. Of course, you might think that mental disease patients probably have higher degrees of such symptoms. But what I think is that at any point in life we are all become exposed to depression & anxiety, so playing a classic board game, such as GO-game or Chess, just might help you out. Just do not expect the magic the next day of your first play-through! Time heals…with board games, this might be even faster.

2. Cognitive function increase & prevention of mental diseases

All right, how about preserving your mental health? Do board games help you to remain mentally healthy & sharp?

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For those that are healthy and want to remain like that, board games are a great tool to preserve their cognitive function. In 2019, A French study [2], researching 3,675 individuals from the Bordeaux area of South-west of France, for 20 years (yes, you heard that right), has found something that might peek your interest.

The research was implemented in order to assess the risk of dementia(a general term of mental diseases). All of the individuals were dementia-free, 65+ years old, 32% of subjects involved in constant board gaming. During the 20-years period, 840 participants have developed dementia over the research period. The conclusion was that the risk of dementia was 15 % lower in board gaming subjects than in non-players.

The researchers also have done some interpretations on why the risk of dementia dropped. Two likely reasons have been identified:

Playing board games slows down the cognitive decline for the elderly, leading to ta decrease in the probability of dementia.
Board gaming makes you more socially active, which decreases depression, leading to a lower risk of dementia as well.
Speaking about patients with mental diseases, Q. Lin, Y. Cao, J. Gao, 2015 study [1], as well as French study about Dementia [2] provided no strong evidence about board games as a contributing factor to the treatment of mental diseases such as Alzheimer or Dementia. Instead, both studies’ findings indicate that board games are a reliable tool to help to cope with the symptoms of such diseases.

Effects on memory & focus

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There is some supportive evidence that board games help you to develop a longer attention span & enhance your memory. For me, this would seem like a very logical idea, simply due to learning & improving. All the classic board games, memory games, strategy non-traditional board games require you to learn, multitask & attentively track your opponent’s actions.

A study implemented in 2013 in Thailand [3] has researched 40 plus aged adults for the effects on cognitive function of playing Ska game – a traditional Thailand board game. For 16 weeks, 20 players (10 male, 10 female) played Ska game for 16 weeks, three times per week, 50 minutes per game session.

The results of the study indicate that players had an increase in their cognitive functions, against the other group of individuals who did not play the game. The cognitive function was measured by numerous memory & attention tests. All the subjects were healthy individuals.

Finally, a Korean study [4] has concluded that for 12-17-year old children who have Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they increased their attention measuring test scores by playing Go game (Chinese traditional board game).


For some people, these days are not the happiest moments for sure. Particularly, due to Coronavirus Pandemic and the negative effects it causes. From people losing their loved ones, troublesome medical care, unemployment & economic decline to social limitations… The flow of negative information is super high.

At some point, it starts getting to you. As a result, we look for compensation. Personally for me, playing board games with family & friends is what really gets me going! They are not only fun but provide numerous benefits to your mental health.

From means to cope with anxiety & depression, to long-term benefits, such as increased focus, memory, and prevention of mental conditions and diseases, such as Dementia & Alzheimer.

This was only the tip of the iceberg of board game benefits! As board games become more popular, so is the research about their effects. With that in mind, I will definitely spend some more time figuring these out & come back to you with some more content on the benefits of playing board games.

So far I could say that most of the studies focus on traditional board games, such as Chess, Shogi and more. I will definitely look at some more specific research that focuses on non-traditional board games, as I personally play more of these. But I expect the benefits to be quiet similar.

In the meantime, if you want to play some board games while stuck at home, consider checking recommended board games to play during Coronavirus Quarantine ?

Are you interested in learning about sustainable happiness & freedom? I have stumbled upon a free 10-week online course that is about some philosophical ideas. I am not sponsored or associated with them, I just found it, thought someone could definitely benefit from that. Make sure to check their sign-up & chedule dates before applying.

Stay safe and play more board games!

Until the next time,

Academic resources used:

  1. Qiao Lin, Yunpeng Cao and Jie Gao (2015) “The impacts of a GO-game (Chinese chess) intervention on Alzheimer disease in a Northeast Chinese population”.
  2. Jean François Dartigues, Alexandra Foubert-Samier, Mélanie Le Goff, Mélanie Viltard, Hélène Amieva, Jean Marc Orgogozo, Pascale Barberger-Gateau, Catherine Helmer (2019) “Playing board games, cognitive decline and dementia: a French population-based cohort study”.
  3. Panphunpho S, Thavichachart N, Kritpet T. (2013) “Positive effects of Ska game practice on cognitive function among older adults”.
  4. Se Hee Kim, Doug Hyun Han, Young Sik Lee, Bung-Nyun Kim, Jae Hoon Cheong, and Sang Ho Han (2014) “Baduk (the Game of Go) Improved Cognitive Function and Brain Activity in Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

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