One in Ten Youth are Addicted to Video Games

One in Ten Youth are Addicted to Video Games

Many people casually joke that their children are “addicted” to television or video games, but a recent study from Iowa State University shows that nearly one in ten American youths (aged 8 to 18) are pathological video game players. This means their video game habits cause family, social, school, or psychological damage.

Iowa State University Assistant Professor of Psychology Douglas Gentile says that this is the first study to tell us the national prevalence of pathological play among youth gamers. “Although the general public uses the word ‘addiction,’ clinicians often report it as pathological use,” he said. “What we mean by pathological use is that something someone is doing—in this case, playing video games—is damaging to their functioning. It’s not simply doing it a lot. It has to harm functioning in multiple ways.”

Gentile analyzed data collected in a national Harris Poll survey in January 2007 of 1,178 American youth. He compared the youths’ play habits to the symptoms established in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for pathological gambling. He classified gamers as pathological if they displayed at least six out of eleven symptoms.

The pathological gamers played videogames 24 hours per week, about twice as much as non-pathological gamers. They were also more likely to have game systems in their bedrooms, have trouble paying attention in school, receive poorer grades in school, have more health problems, and to feel addicted. Some have even stolen 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 Hyperactivity Disorder.

Gentile was surprised at the results. “I started studying videogame addiction in 1999 largely because I didn’t believe in it,” he said. “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 (of pathological addiction).”

Gentile said there is still much to learn, and he is continuing his research, conducting studies to determine risk factors and symptoms found in pathological gamers. “We don’t know who’s most at risk, or whether this is part of a pattern of disorders. That’s important because many disorders are co-morbid with others. It may be a symptom of depression, for example. And so we would want to understand that pattern of co-morbidity because that would help us know how to treat it.”

Source: Science Daily, Nearly 1 in 10 Youth Gamers Addicted to Video Games, April 21, 2009


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