Research Topic

Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Video Games for Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health

About this Research Topic

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is having a significant impact on global healthcare, economics and general human well-being. In addition to the tragic effect of COVID-19 on the medical health of the global population, its ominous and physically invisible presence could have an enduring impact on mental health and the everyday life of millions of people worldwide. Thus far, 187 countries have been affected, with more than 5 million confirmed infections and over 345,000 deaths. The adverse impact on mental health concerns not only health care workers, who are facing exhausting work rhythms and the need to manage patients experiencing extreme suffering, but also millions of people forced into isolation and/or quarantine.

These conditions put health care workers as well as the general population at a high risk of developing stress-related psychopathological symptoms, anxiety disorders, depression, moral injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with potential long-term consequences on their mental and physical health.

Numerous scientific studies have shown that, among various therapeutic programs, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) represent highly specialized and effective tools for the prevention, assessment and treatment of mental health concerns, including stress-related psychopathological symptoms, depression, and anxiety disorders, such as PTSD. These technologies, in fact, can help patients both process the emotional aspects of traumatic memories and learn useful resources to better manage COVID-19 related stressors. Such approaches have been shown to be effective with victims of stress and trauma from other sources including war, natural disasters, interpersonal violence and terrorist attacks. Furthermore, various studies have demonstrated that people play video games (VGs) because of their inherent capacity to play a role as a distraction from undesirable emotional states, such as anxiety and stress, by providing a temporary diversion from (real-world) negative events or emotions. Different genres of VGs have proved capable of eliciting positive emotions and decreasing stress and anxiety in players, especially casual video games (CVGs) and exergames. Additionally, VR/AR games have also recently proven effective to decrease stress and anxiety in individuals.

It is in this context that we welcome contributions to this Research Topic entitled “Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Video Games for Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health”. Theoretical, empirical, experimental and case studies are welcome. All contributions should clearly address the practical and theoretical implications of the research reported, and short papers (2-5 pages) will be considered if they meet these criteria.

We therefore welcome submissions of Original Research and Reviews on the following topics:

•Application of VR/AR and VGs for psychological support during the COVID-19 crisis;
•Design and evaluation of VR/AR contents and VGs for the prevention and treatment of mental health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic;
•Applications that differentially consider the specific needs of frontline healthcare providers, COVID-19 survivors, previous trauma victims (military veterans etc.), and the general population;
•Possible uses of VR/AR and VGs at home, schools, hospitals and clinics for psychological support in the COVID-19 crisis and/or the methodologies and technologic approaches that will promote access and adoption in these settings;
•Theoretical perspective of understanding VR and VGs in the prevention and treatment of mental health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic;
•Potential impact (socio-cultural, economic and environmental) of VR and VGs for psychological support in the COVID-19 pandemic;
•Methods for promoting safety and infection prevention in the use of VR/AR head-mounted displays;
•Challenges and pitfalls in applying VR and VGs for psychological support in the COVID-19 pandemic purposes.


Keywords: virtual reality, video games, mental health, COVID-19, Stress, Anxiety, Trauma


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is having a significant impact on global healthcare, economics and general human well-being. In addition to the tragic effect of COVID-19 on the medical health of the global population, its ominous and physically invisible presence could have an enduring impact on mental health and the everyday life of millions of people worldwide. Thus far, 187 countries have been affected, with more than 5 million confirmed infections and over 345,000 deaths. The adverse impact on mental health concerns not only health care workers, who are facing exhausting work rhythms and the need to manage patients experiencing extreme suffering, but also millions of people forced into isolation and/or quarantine.

These conditions put health care workers as well as the general population at a high risk of developing stress-related psychopathological symptoms, anxiety disorders, depression, moral injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with potential long-term consequences on their mental and physical health.

Numerous scientific studies have shown that, among various therapeutic programs, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) represent highly specialized and effective tools for the prevention, assessment and treatment of mental health concerns, including stress-related psychopathological symptoms, depression, and anxiety disorders, such as PTSD. These technologies, in fact, can help patients both process the emotional aspects of traumatic memories and learn useful resources to better manage COVID-19 related stressors. Such approaches have been shown to be effective with victims of stress and trauma from other sources including war, natural disasters, interpersonal violence and terrorist attacks. Furthermore, various studies have demonstrated that people play video games (VGs) because of their inherent capacity to play a role as a distraction from undesirable emotional states, such as anxiety and stress, by providing a temporary diversion from (real-world) negative events or emotions. Different genres of VGs have proved capable of eliciting positive emotions and decreasing stress and anxiety in players, especially casual video games (CVGs) and exergames. Additionally, VR/AR games have also recently proven effective to decrease stress and anxiety in individuals.

It is in this context that we welcome contributions to this Research Topic entitled “Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Video Games for Addressing the Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health”. Theoretical, empirical, experimental and case studies are welcome. All contributions should clearly address the practical and theoretical implications of the research reported, and short papers (2-5 pages) will be considered if they meet these criteria.

We therefore welcome submissions of Original Research and Reviews on the following topics:

•Application of VR/AR and VGs for psychological support during the COVID-19 crisis;
•Design and evaluation of VR/AR contents and VGs for the prevention and treatment of mental health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic;
•Applications that differentially consider the specific needs of frontline healthcare providers, COVID-19 survivors, previous trauma victims (military veterans etc.), and the general population;
•Possible uses of VR/AR and VGs at home, schools, hospitals and clinics for psychological support in the COVID-19 crisis and/or the methodologies and technologic approaches that will promote access and adoption in these settings;
•Theoretical perspective of understanding VR and VGs in the prevention and treatment of mental health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic;
•Potential impact (socio-cultural, economic and environmental) of VR and VGs for psychological support in the COVID-19 pandemic;
•Methods for promoting safety and infection prevention in the use of VR/AR head-mounted displays;
•Challenges and pitfalls in applying VR and VGs for psychological support in the COVID-19 pandemic purposes.


Keywords: virtual reality, video games, mental health, COVID-19, Stress, Anxiety, Trauma


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

11 July 2020 Abstract
08 November 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

11 July 2020 Abstract
08 November 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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