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Gaming addiction "serious"

Friday January 21st, 2011

Video game addiction is a serious behavioural problem that is separate from other afflictions, it has been claimed.

A two-year study carried out in Singapore by an international research team found greater amounts of gaming, lower social competence and greater impulsiveness were risk factors for becoming pathological gamers.

The longitudinal study of 3,034 youths found approximately nine per cent of gamers were pathological players, according to standards similar to those established by the American Psychiatric Association for diagnosing gambling addiction.

They suffered depression, anxiety and social phobias as well as finding their school work suffer.

Douglas Gentile, an Iowa State University associate professor of psychology who collaborated with five researchers from Singapore and Hong Kong on the study, said: “We're starting to see a number of studies from different cultures, in Europe, the US and Asia, and they're all showing that somewhere around 7 to 11 per cent of gamers seem to be having real problems to the point that they're considered pathological gamers.

"And we define that as damage to actual functioning -- their school, social, family, occupational, psychological functioning, etc. To be considered pathological, gamers must be damaging multiple areas of their lives."

The researchers gathered data from students attending 12 Singapore schools, including five boys' schools. They were surveyed annually on their video game play and behaviour between 2007 and 2009. Surveys were also conducted in classrooms by teachers who had been trained by the research team.

Using the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a guide, it was found between 7.6 and 9.9 per cent of the participants could be defined as pathological gamers over the two-year period.

A total of 84 per cent of students surveyed who were first classified as pathological gamers were found to be still “addicted” two years later.

"It looks like pathological gaming is not simply a symptom of depression, social phobia or anxiety,” said Gentile, whose study is to published in the February 2011 issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“In fact, those problems seem to increase as children become more addicted. In addition, when children stopped being addicted, depression, anxiety and social phobias decreased as well."

Tags: Asia | Infancy to Adolescence | Mental Health | North America

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