Special series on "effects of board games on health education and promotion" board games as a promising tool for health promotion: a review of recent literature

Biopsychosoc Med. 2019 Feb 19:13:5. doi: 10.1186/s13030-019-0146-3. eCollection 2019.


Board games are played by moving game pieces in particular ways on special boards marked with patterns. To clarify the possible roles of board game use in psychosomatic medicine, the present review evaluated studies that investigated the effects of this activity on health education and treatment. A literature search conducted between January 2012 and August 2018 identified 83 relevant articles; 56 (67%) targeted education or training for health-related problems, six (7%) examined basic brain mechanisms, five (6%) evaluated preventative measures for dementia or contributions to healthy aging, and three (4%) assessed social communication or public health policies. The results of several randomized controlled trials indicated that the playing of traditional board games (e.g., chess, Go, and Shogi) helps to improve cognitive impairment and depression, and that the playing of newly developed board games is beneficial for behavioral modifications, such as the promotion of healthy eating, smoking cessation, and safe sex. Although the number of studies that have evaluated board game use in terms of mental health remains limited, many studies have provided interesting findings regarding brain function, cognitive effects, and the modification of health-related lifestyle factors.

Keywords: Board game; Chess; Dementia; Go; Lifestyle modification; Shogi.

Publication types

  • Review