The VRSciT project (2020-1-PT01-KA204-078597) has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Impact of the recreational use of virtual reality on physical and mental wellbeing during the Covid‑19 lockdown

Study Field
Environmental Education, Mental Health Services, Special Needs
Summary
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes to most aspects of our lives. As a result of the quarantine enforced by governments and authorities worldwide, people had to suddenly adapt their daily routines, including work, study, diet, leisure, and fitness activities to the new circumstances. A growing body of research indicates that engagement with virtual reality (VR) activities can have a positive impact on users’ mental and physical wellbeing. This study aims to evaluate the impact of VR activities on users under lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. An online survey was carried out to investigate the recreational use of VR during the lockdown period and to gather users’ opinions on its impact on their physical and mental health. Non-parametric tests were used to evaluate the statistical significance of the responses provided by the 646 participants. The results of the survey show that VR use has significantly increased during the lockdown period for most participants, who expressed overwhelmingly positive opinions on the impact of VR activities on their mental and physical wellbeing. Strikingly, self-reported intensity of physical activity was considerably more strenuous in VR users than in console users. Given the current uncertainty as to the duration and course of the pandemic, as well as the possibility of intermittent lockdown in the upcoming years, the outcomes of this study could have a significant impact on the development and deployment of VR-based strategies aimed at helping the population cope with prolonged social distancing, with particular regards to vulnerable individuals.
Innovative VR tools and techniques
● VR activities on users under lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
VR in education
● SARS-CoV-2 virus has changed our daily personal and professional lives in an unprecedented manner; several studies have already reported significant impacts on the mental and physical health of the global population.
● Covid-19 patients and Healthcare Workers (HCW) have identified the categories with the highest risk of suffering mental health consequences that were directly caused by the pandemic.
● The Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing containment measures (lockdown, quarantine, self-isolation, social distancing) have resulted in negative outcomes on public mental health, including “stress, depression, irritability, insomnia, fear, confusion, anger, frustration, boredom, and stigma associated with quarantine, some of which persisted after the quarantine was lifted”.
● The closure of gyms, sports pitches, and parks, combined with heavy restrictions to outdoor movement, has forced millions of people to suddenly adopt an unusually sedentary lifestyle.
● VR-based strategies have successfully been used for the management of anxiety, phobias, stress, eating disorders, substance abuse, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, psychosis, depression, and autism.
● An increasing body of evidence shows that VR-based interventions can improve physical fitness, muscle strength, balance, extremity function, and overall quality of life in patients undergoing physical rehabilitation.
● The results of this study support the hypothesis that the recreational use of VR can have a positive impact on mental and physical wellbeing during periods of forced lockdown.
● VR activities can be effective in improving psychophysical wellbeing in older adults.
● VR may be a more effective “exergaming” device than traditional consoles.
Reference
Siani, A., Marley, S.A. Impact of the recreational use of virtual reality on physical and mental wellbeing during the Covid-19 lockdown. Health Technol. 11, 425–435 (2021).

The VRSciT Project

The VRSciT project (2020-1-PT01-KA204-078597) has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.