Loot boxes, gambling-related risk factors, and mental health in Mainland China: A large-scale survey

Leon Y. Xiao, Tullia C. Fraser, Rune Kristian Lundedal Nielsen, Philip W.S. Newall

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Loot boxes can be bought with real-world money to obtain random content inside video games. Loot boxes are viewed by many as gambling-like and are prevalently implemented globally. Previous Western and international studies have consistently found loot box spending to be positively correlated with problem gambling. Previous Western studies presented mixed results as to the correlations between loot box purchasing and gambling-related risk factors, mental wellbeing, and psychological distress. A large-scale survey of adult video game players from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) (N = 2601) was conducted through Tencent Survey. The positive correlations between loot box spending and problem gambling, and between loot box spending and problem videogaming, were successfully replicated. However, other potential risk factors (i.e., impulsivity/impulsiveness; binary past-year gambling participation status; and sensation-seeking tendencies) either did not positively correlate with loot box spending or only did so weakly. Contrary to expectations, high impulsivity was negatively associated with loot box engagement. The Risky Loot Box Index (RLI) most strongly positively correlated with, and was the best predictor in multiple linear regression models for, loot box spending. The RLI may be effective at measuring loot box harms cross-culturally. A surprising weak positive correlation was found between loot box engagement and PRC players’ mental wellbeing, and high psychological distress unexpectedly negatively predicted loot box purchasing. Although gambling-like, the risk and protective factors of loot boxes are seemingly different, meaning they should rightfully be treated as novel products. Cross-cultural research can contribute to a better understanding of loot box harms.
TidsskriftAddictive Behaviors
StatusUdgivet - 2023


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