Nearly one in ten young gamers addicted, says report

Ames (IO) – In yet more research pathologising widespread behavior, a Iowa State University psychology professor has concluded that nearly one in ten young players show “pathological patterns of video game addiction”.

Through a national Harris Poll survey of 1,178 American youths aged eight to eighteen, ISU Assistant Professor of Psychology Douglas Gentile found that 8.5% were pathological players according to standards established for pathological gambling – causing family, social, school or psychological damage because of their video game playing habits.

“What we mean by pathological use is that something someone is doing – in this case, playing video games – is damaging to their functioning,” said Gentile. “It’s not simply doing it a lot. It has to harm functioning in multiple ways.”

Gentile’s paper “Pathological Video Game Use among Youth 8 to 18: A National Study,” will be published in the May edition of Psychological Science, the journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

He compared respondents’ video game play habits to the symptoms established in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for pathological gambling. Gamers were classified as “pathological” if they exhibited at least six of 11 symptoms.

The pathological gamers in the study played video games 24 hours per week, about twice as much as non-pathological gamers. They also were more likely to have video game systems in their bedrooms, reported having more trouble paying attention in school, received poorer grades in school, had more health problems, were more likely to feel “addicted,” and even stole to support their habit.

The study also found that pathological gamers were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with attention problems such as Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Gentile himself was surprised to find that so many youngsters exhibit pathological patterns of video game play. “I started studying video game addition in 1999 largely because I didn’t believe in it,” said Gentile. “I assumed that parents called it ‘addiction’ because they didn’t understand why their children spent so much time playing. So I measured the way you measure pathological gambling and the way it harms functioning, and was surprised to find that a substantial number of gamers do rise to that leVEL.”

The American Medical Association has so far declined to define gaming addiction as a diagnosable disorder. This displeases organisations such as the CRC Health Group, which campaigns for official recognition of this dreadful scourge – and helpfully offers treatment programmes itself.

Gentile is continuing his own research, currently conducting both longitudinal and clinical studies to determine risk factors and symptoms found in pathological youth gamers. He doesn’t appear to have plans to research pathological levels of cycling, fishing or playing with Barbie dolls.

His complete study is available online here.