Have you heard of the popular Chinese strategy game 'Mahjong'? Well, unless you live under a rock, we're sure you have. It's a tile-based game that was developed in China during the Qing dynasty and as of the 20th century, the game had become so famous that it had spread throughout the world. The game is commonly played by four players. If you're wondering why we're talking about this game with such interest, it's because a new study has found that playing this game might just help combat feelings of depression.
Yes, you read that right. A study has found that playing 'Mahjong' could reduce the risk of depression in urban adults. Who knew a centuries-old game could come to your rescue in this way? "Global economic and epidemiologic trends have led to significant increases in the burden of mental health among older adults, especially in the low and middle-income countries," said Adam Chen, associate professor at the University of Georgia, US.
Issues related to mental health have started to become a huge problem in China. Most adults are plagued with issues like loneliness and social isolation. In fact, researchers claim that mental health issues are on the rise in multiple other countries as well. Some developed nations like the US and Japan have been trying to figure out how participating in social activities could benefit the minds of adults and help them cope with issues like depression.
"Social participation manifests itself in different formats within different cultural contexts," said Chen. "Our paper provides evidence on the association between social participation and mental health in the context of a developing country. We also examined the rural-urban difference, which has not been examined extensively in this line of literature," he said.
To conduct the study, Chen collaborated with China's Huazhong University of Science and Technology and together they analysed data provided by nearly 11,000 residents aged 45 years and older from the nationally representative China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study. They looked for symptoms of depression and drew comparisons with certain factors like the type and frequency of social participation, visiting friends, playing the Mahjong game, volunteering in the community, playing a sport or even joining a social club.
It was found that participating in a variety of social activities helped combat feelings of depression and Mahjong was one of the most popular activities that came to people's rescue. "Traditionally, rural China featured tight-knit communities of close kinship, often with a limited number of extended large families in a village," he said. "We were expecting strong ties and communal bonds in rural China, but it appears that we were wrong," said Chen.
"What is more surprising is that mahjong playing does not associate with better mental health among rural elderly respondents," added Chen. "One hypothesis is that mahjong playing tends to be more competitive and at times become a means of gambling in rural China," he said.