Following nearly a year of debate, the World Health Organization (WHO) has resolved to move forward with classifying gaming addiction as an official condition. This is a move that will see “gaming disorder” placed on the same list as gambling disorder and other addictive behaviours.
The classification forms part of the eleventh revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, which the organization unanimously voted for at the 72nd World Health Assembly on Saturday. The revision will come into effect on 1 January 2022.
According to the classification, gaming disorder is defined thusly:
Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by:
- Impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);
- Increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and
- Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. The behaviour pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
The pattern of gaming behaviour may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. The gaming behaviour and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe.
The decision has been met with opposition with industry leaders and by video game advocacy groups. In a joint statement, several organizations including the Electronic Software Association and trade group Interactive Entertainment South Africa called on the WHO to reconsider its position. “The WHO is an esteemed organization and its guidance needs to be based on regular, inclusive, and transparent reviews backed by independent experts,” it read. “‘Gaming disorder’ is not based on sufficiently robust evidence to justify inclusion in one of the WHO’s most important norm-setting tools.”
Member states have already begun to implement measures that cater for treating the disorder come its classification. In the UK, the National Health Service has established an internet addiction clinic.