British students escaping to video games to support mental wellbeing

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Students are turning en masse to video games to escape real world problems and support their mental health, according to the new gaming report* from UNiDAYS, the world’s leading Gen Z affinity network that enables students and graduates to discover savings. 

  • More than 3 in 4 students play video games, with 38% identifying as “gamers” 
  • 82% of British students play games to relax and for their mental wellbeing 
  • 60% of students in the UK will be spending on gaming each month 

The report, revealing the gaming habits of Gen Z consumers, has found that despite rising inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, students are making sure to budget for the latest gaming purchases.  

With more than 3 in 4 British students saying they play video games, and nearly 40% going as far as identifying as “gamers”, Gen Z is ready to flex their spending power. Gaming is also more accessible than ever, with over 70% playing on their phones, meaning this spend has the potential to grow, with the research revealing the deeper value of gaming for students. 

Putting wellbeing first 

Unsurprisingly, nearly all (92%) respondents game to have fun. However, for 82% of students, one of the key reasons for gaming has become relaxation in support of their mental wellbeing.  

With research from UNiDAYS and mental health platform Unmind finding that 72% of students are struggling with mental health, gaming is providing a much-needed outlet for students to take some me-time and prioritise mindfulness.  

In the current climate of uncertainty, gaming offers students a sense of escapism, with over two-thirds of students saying they play video games as an opportunity to escape and explore new worlds. 

As well as an escape, gaming also gives students an opportunity to connect with existing and new friends online, with nearly half of respondents (45%) gaming socially.  

With nearly a third of gamers (29%) also looking to build confidence and social skills through making friends and interacting with others, the online community is a key driver for many student gamers. 

Alongside building social skills, 88% of male and 73% of female Gen Z gamers say that in-game features like personalising their game characters give them a platform to express themselves, with nearly 2 in 3 spending on additional content such as character skins for added personalisation. 

Booming market 

As students seek the mental benefits of gaming, they are more willing to regularly spend on the latest games and devices, with UNiDAYS’ recent Travel report finding that the cost of living crisis should not impact their 2023 budgets. Over half (60%) of students will spend on gaming each month, with more than 1 in 4 (27%) spending more than £21 per month on gaming.  

This echoes the findings of UNiDAYS Beauty report, which highlighted UK students' willingness to spend more than £21 per month on beauty brands like MAC, Fenty Beauty and Ordinary. Perhaps video games are becoming Gen Z’s very own lipstick effect indulgence. 

And forget old gender stereotypes; spending on gaming remains a priority for all. Over 70% of female students play video games compared to 90% of males. 

When they treat themselves to a new game or device, almost half of students will use their savings (46%) or income from a part-time job (47%). Only 1 in 10 will use a credit card, while 12% will use a Buy Now, Pay Later scheme. Gaming and tech brands must seize this opportunity to win the trust of this consistently engaged and influential demographic.  

“Young adults enjoying video games may not come as a shock to many, but this research digs into the deeper reasons behind this, and the crucial role gaming is playing in many students’ lives. With over 80% of students gaming to support their mental wellbeing, it’s reassuring to see students are taking steps to prioritise their mental health and wellness,” says Alex Gallagher, Chief Strategy Officer at UNiDAYS. 

“While the struggles of the cost-of-living crisis have been felt, students are prioritising wellness and as a result are budgeting for gaming purchases as we continue to see a shift towards on the go mobile gaming. Gaming and tech brands which can provide a virtual escape for Gen Z can be assured that students are listening and ready to buy if the price is right.”