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  • Writer's pictureJason Capp

The Effects of Board Games on Health Education and Promotion

Although the number of studies that have evaluated board game play in terms of mental health remains limited, many studies have provided interesting findings regarding brain function, cognitive effects, and the modification of health-related lifestyle factors.

Historically, board games have been a part of the human experience for thousands of years. The game Senet, found in Predynastic and First Dynasty burials of Egypt, c. 3500 BC and 3100 BC respectively, is the oldest board game known to have existed. Senet was pictured in a fresco painting found in Merknera's tomb (3300–2700 BC), and it proves that intelligent minds find pleasure in interesting and competitive games for fun.

Board games have seen swings of popularity over the last few hundred years, and it appears that board games are finding new life thanks to millennials and other young generations finding solace and enjoyment in the entertaining medium. This does bring up some interesting studies, as modern day board games are becoming more and more complex, adding even more challenge and thinking to the process, and this even includes games for children. You may have even noticed that the age range on certain games are wildly different than what they used to be, and with the rise of adult-themed party games, board games are becoming more creative and interesting with each passing year.

So what does playing board games have to do with health education and the promotion of it? Well, a peer-reviewed study from 2016 by Mutsuhiro Nakao evaluated studies from all over the world posing the question of whether or not players of certain popular games within their respective countries tend to walk away with certain impacts, including things like psychological outcomes, physical reactions, and even learnings that were picked up directly or indirectly from play.

According to Nakao's research, he concluded that although there is not a lot of studies out there in regards to the benefits of board games, there are plenty of interesting findings that assure certain brain function, cognitive effects, and even health-related lifestyle modifications. He also mentions that based on his findings that board games can serve as educational tools for health professionals and further research is necessary to learn even more.

It is time to re-evaluate the usefulness of games and gamifications following technological advances made in modern society. Clinical medicine is closely linked to a public health approach, and medical practices should be undertaken within the limited human, time, and financial resources currently available. In this sense, appropriate health education programs with a board game component would be useful for both preventive and therapeutic intervention for cognitive-behavioral functioning (e.g., ADHD and dementia), psychological conditions (e.g., depression and anxiety disorders), and life-style diseases (e.g., metabolic syndromes and smoking-related diseases).

As we move more towards a wider understanding of the world around us, discovering new ways to help individuals in all walks of life is a must. Some times that avenue is through Eastern ideas and philosophies like meditation and laughter yoga, and some times it is simply a means of diet and exercise. However, as we move more towards global understanding, learning about even more unique avenues that could benefit very specific groups in helpful ways is just another means of promoting healthier living for more people.

So remember to take some time and dust off those old board games. They may contain more benefits than you have ever imagined, and they are fun as well.



Nakao, M. (2019). Special series on “effects of board games on health education and promotion” board games as a promising tool for health promotion: A review of recent literature. BioPsychoSocial Medicine, 13(1), 1-7.

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