LONDON, June 18 – Many parents already have concerns, but some may now have a new argument for limiting their children’s ‘screen time’ — addiction to video games has been recognized by World Health Organization (WHO) as a mental health disorder.
The WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD), a reference bible of recognized and diagnosable diseases, describes addiction to digital and video gaming as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior” that becomes so extensive it “takes precedence over other life interests”.
The WHO’s expert on mental health and substance abuse, Shekhar Saxena, said some of the worst cases seen in global research were of gamers playing for up to 20 hours a day, forgoing sleep, meals, work or school and other daily activities.
He stressed that only a small minority of people who play digital and video games would develop a problem, but said recognition of early warning signs may help prevent it.
“This is an occasional or transitory behavior,” he said, adding that only if such behavior persists for around a year could a potential diagnosis of a disorder be made.
Responding to the decision to including gaming addiction, the Video Games Coalition — an industry lobby group — said their products were “enjoyed safely and sensibly by more than 2 billion people worldwide” across all kinds of genres, devices and platforms.
It added that the “educational, therapeutic, and recreational value” of games was well-founded and widely recognized and urged the WHO to reconsider.
The ICD, which has been updated over the past 10 years, covers 55,000 injuries, diseases and causes of death. It forms a basis for the WHO and other experts to see and respond to trends in health.