Soc Sci Med. 2018 Dec 27;222:84-90. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.12.026.
Internet gaming addiction (IGA) has been associated with many negative health outcomes, especially for youth. In particular, the potential association between IGA and leukocyte telomere length (LTL) has yet to be examined. In this study we compared LTL in Korean male adolescents with and without IGA and examined the association between LTL and autonomic functions. Specifically, plasma catecholamine, serum cortisol, and psychological stress levels were measured as autonomic functions. Data were collected using participant blood samples analyzed for LTL, catecholamine, and cortisol levels and a set of questionnaires to assess IGA and psychological stress levels of the participants. The LTL measurements were made using a qPCR-based technique, and the relative LTL was calculated as the telomere/single copy (T/S) ratio. T/S ratio was significantly shorter in the IGA group than in the non-IGA group (150.43 ± 6.20 and 187.23 ± 6.42, respectively; p < .001) after adjusting for age. In a univariate regression analysis, age, daily Internet gaming time, IGA score, and catecholamine level (epinephrine and norepinephrine) were significantly associated with T/S ratio. However, duration of Internet gaming exposure, dopamine, cortisol, and psychological stress levels were not found to be associated with T/S ratio. In the final multiple linear regression model, age, daily Internet gaming time, and epinephrine level showed statistically significant relationships with T/S ratio. Our results indicate that in addition to age, involvement in excessive Internet gaming may induce LTL shortening in male adolescents, which may be partially attributable to changes in autonomic function such as catecholamine level. These findings further understanding of the health effects of IGA and highlight the need for screening and intervention strategies for male adolescents with IGA.
KEYWORDS: Gaming addiction; Leukocyte telomere length; Plasma catecholamine; Psychological stress; Real time PCR; Serum cortisol