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News Article

WHO Classifies Gaming Addiction as a Disease

By Miriam Bello | Mon, 01/03/2022 - 17:55

The World Health Organization (WHO) included video game addiction on its list of mental disorders for the first time. The disease is characterized by the compulsive playing of video games, leading to the deterioration of life and the neglect of other interests and activities.

Gaming is labeled a disorder only if it significantly impairs personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other areas for at least 12 months. Studies suggest that gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of the population that engages in digital or video-gaming activities, explains the WHO. However, “people who partake in gaming should be alert to the amount of time they spend on gaming activities, particularly when it is to the exclusion of other daily activities, as well as to any changes in their physical or psychological health and social functioning that could be attributed to their pattern of gaming behavior,” says the organization.

Depending on the severity of the addictive behavior and the co-occurrence of other medical or psychiatric conditions, gaming addiction may be treated on an inpatient or outpatient basis, explains the American Addiction Center. According to the center, inpatient facilities offer 24-hour supervision in a supportive, structured environment, which may be beneficial for individuals who have not been able to control their video game use. Outpatient treatment offers more flexibility for individuals who cannot enroll in inpatient treatment due to personal responsibilities or who are very motivated to recover from addictive behavior.

Gaming Market and Health Impact

The global gaming market was valued at US$174.9 billion in 2020. By 2025, it is expected to reach US$256.97 billion, growing at a CAGR of 9.17 percent, says Market Business News. Early 2020 forecasts were exceeded by US$15.6 billion, probably due to the COVID-19 pandemic according to the Psychiatric Times.

A 2018 study by online payment company PayPal estimated that Mexicans spend an average of MX$1,000-MX$1,500 (US$48.8-US$73.2) on video games per month. In that year, the cost of a game classified as AAA (millionaire productions of large companies) was MX$1,200 (US$58.52).

A study by Frontiers in Psychology found a moderate link between potentially problematic video game use and poor psychological functioning, maladaptive coping strategies, negative affectivity, low self-esteem and a preference for solitude, as well as poor school performance.

The study also found that playing video games may help individuals distract themselves from everyday hassles and may lead to positive affect while playing and a feeling of being connected to like-minded people, all of which are factors that have an immediate reinforcing value. “In the long run, however, spending many hours per day in front of a computer screen may prevent a person from developing and practicing functional coping strategies, finding friends and support in the social environment and showing proper school achievement, additionally, it can also be tied to a sedentary lifestyle, avoidance of self-development, increase aggression or violence or stress injuries.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst