WHO to include gaming disorder as a serious health condition

Organisation: Position: Deadline Date: Location:

According to a New Scientist report, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is to include gaming disorder in its International Classification of Diseases for the first time. This widely used diagnostic manual was last updated in 1990, and the latest version – called ICD-11 – is set to be published in 2018.

The wording of the gaming disorder entry that will be included in ICD-11 is yet to be finalised, but the draft currently lists a variety of criteria clinicians could use to determine if a person’s gaming has become a serious health condition.

Vladimir Poznyak, a member of the WHO’s department of mental health and substance abuse, spoke about the importance of recognising gaming disorder as an important issue. “Health professionals need to recognise that gaming disorder may have serious health consequences,” he said. “Most people who play video games don’t have a disorder, just like most people who drink alcohol don’t have a disorder either. However, in certain circumstances overuse can lead to adverse effects.”

Last year, researchers from the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute undertook a study to investigate the percentage of gamers who are addicted to video games. The study found that only 2% to 3% of the 19,000 men and women surveyed from the UK, the US, Canada and Germany admitted that they experienced five or more of the symptoms from the American Psychiatric Association checklist of health symptoms. A few years ago, the APA created a list of nine standard symptoms that could determine “internet gaming disorder”. These symptoms include anxiety, withdrawal symptoms and antisocial behaviour.

Dr Andrew Przybylski, lead author from the University of Oxford study is quoted in the report as saying: “To our knowledge, these are the first findings from a large-scale project to produce robust evidence on the potential new problem of ‘internet gaming disorder’. Contrary to what was predicted, the study did not find a clear link between potential addiction and negative effects on health; however, more research grounded in open and robust scientific practices is needed to learn if games are truly as addictive as many fear.”

Objective: The American Psychiatric Association (APA) identified Internet gaming disorder as a new potential psychiatric disorder and has recognized that little is known about the prevalence, validity, or cross-cultural robustness of proposed Internet gaming disorder criteria. In response to this gap in our understanding, the present study, a first for this research topic, estimated the period prevalence of this new potential psychiatric disorder using APA guidance, examined the validity of its proposed indicators, evaluated reliability cross-culturally and across genders, compared it to gold-standard research on gambling addiction and problem gaming, and estimated its impact on physical, social, and mental health.
Method: Four survey studies (N=18,932) with large international cohorts employed an open-science methodology wherein the analysis plans for confirmatory hypotheses were registered prior to data collection.
Results: Among those who played games, more than 2 out of 3 did not report any symptoms of Internet gaming disorder, and findings showed that a very small proportion of the general population (between 0.3% and 1.0%) might qualify for a potential acute diagnosis of Internet gaming disorder. Comparison to gambling disorder revealed that Internet-based games may be significantly less addictive than gambling and similarly dysregulating as electronic games more generally.
Conclusions: The evidence linking Internet gaming disorder to game engagement was strong, but links to physical, social, and mental health outcomes were decidedly mixed.

Andrew K Przybylski, Netta Weinstein, Kou Murayama

New Scientist report
American Journal of Psychiatry abstract

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