Summary: A new study attempted to measure the scale of gaming addiction in the general public using the symptoms of ‘internet gaming disorder’.
Source: Oxford University.
A new Oxford University study suggests that playing internet games is not as addictive as gambling. It is the first research that has tried to measure the scale of gaming addiction in the general population using symptoms of ‘internet gaming disorder’ as defined by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
Researchers from the University’s Oxford Internet Institute asked nationally representative samples of men and women in four countries how they felt after gaming using the APA checklist of health symptoms. The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, investigates concerns voiced recently by the APA about a lack of good quality research into the effects of playing internet games.
Researchers from the University of Oxford surveyed 19,000 men and women from the UK, the United States, Canada and Germany. Over half of the sample said they had played internet games recently. Of these, between 2% and 3% reported they had experienced five or more of the symptoms on the list, with between 1% and 0.5% saying they also had feelings of ‘significant distress’ in being unable to curb their play. These rates are less than half those reported recently for gambling by the British Gambling Prevalence Survey. In that survey, 2.6% of those aged 18-24 and 1% of adults in the general population said they had experienced symptoms linked by the researchers with a gambling disorder.
Two years ago, the American Psychiatric Association outlined the potential problem as ‘internet gaming disorder’ and proposed nine standard symptoms that might characterise possible diagnoses. The APA gave each symptom equal weight, and specified there had be an over-riding ‘feeling of significant distress’. The Oxford study discusses this as a ‘key feature’, noting that while many gamers may feel preoccupied and distracted from other responsibilities in a similar way to a sports fan whose team has reached the finals, they are not likely to have a pathological condition unless there are feelings of significant distress.
All the study participants, recruited through YouGov and Google Surveys, completed symptom and health checklists. To be identified as a possible gaming addict, they had to report five of the nine symptoms from the APA list and also feel significant distress. Symptoms included preoccupation with internet gaming, anxiety and other withdrawal symptoms (if the game was taken away), increasing amounts of time spent gaming, loss of control, reduced interests, social withdrawal, and losing opportunities as a result of gaming. Unique to this study was an emphasis on open materials, open data, and a pre-registered data analysis plan.
Study lead author Dr Andrew Przybylski, from the Oxford Internet Institute, comments: ‘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”. Internet games are currently one of the most popular leisure activities, but we can’t leap to conclusions and assume that if 160 million Americans play them, one million of them might be addicted. 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. If clear evidence does emerge, this would have huge clinical significance as treatments for addicted gamers would vie with a range of serious psychiatric disorders in the current climate of limited health service resources.
‘There were some striking findings: for instance, we found specific indicators like increasing playtime to increase excitement were reported three times more frequently than other indicators, such as risking social relationships. Importantly, the great majority of gamers – nearly three in four – reported no symptoms at all that we would link with addictive gaming behaviour.’
Source: Oxford University
Image Source: This NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the Oxford University press release.
Original Research: Abstract for “Internet Gaming Disorder: Investigating the Clinical Relevance of a New Phenomenon” by Andrew K. Przybylski, Ph.D., Netta Weinstein, Ph.D., and Kou Murayama, Ph.D. in American Journal of Psychiatry. Published online Noember 4 2016 doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.16020224
[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]Oxford University. “What Percentage of People Who Play Video Games are Addicted?.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 5 November 2016.
<https://neurosciencenews.com/video-game-addiction-5437/>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]Oxford University. (2016, November 5). What Percentage of People Who Play Video Games are Addicted?. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved November 5, 2016 from https://neurosciencenews.com/video-game-addiction-5437/[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]Oxford University. “What Percentage of People Who Play Video Games are Addicted?.” https://neurosciencenews.com/video-game-addiction-5437/ (accessed November 5, 2016).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]
Internet Gaming Disorder: Investigating the Clinical Relevance of a New Phenomenon
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.
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.
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.
The evidence linking Internet gaming disorder to game engagement was strong, but links to physical, social, and mental health outcomes were decidedly mixed.
“Internet Gaming Disorder: Investigating the Clinical Relevance of a New Phenomenon” by Andrew K. Przybylski, Ph.D., Netta Weinstein, Ph.D., and Kou Murayama, Ph.D. in American Journal of Psychiatry. Published online Noember 4 2016 doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.16020224