Symptoms of addiction common among youth who play video games

January 28, 2011

As many as 1 in 10 children can be considered a pathologic video gamer, and in many cases the addiction lasts for at least 2 years.

 

As many as 1 in 10 children can be considered a pathologic video gamer, and in many cases the addiction lasts for at least 2 years.

In study results appearing in the February issue of Pediatrics, the video game habits of 3,034 elementary and secondary school children in Singapore were recorded at 3 time points over a 2-year period.

Eighty-three percent of the children reported playing video games occasionally for an average of 20.5 hours per week at time 1; 22.5 hours per week at time 2; and 20.9 hours per week at time 3. Boys reported playing video games an average of 3 hours more per week than girls.

Gamers were considered pathologic if they exhibited at least 5 of 10 symptoms related to functioning. The average number of pathologic gaming symptoms was 2.28 at time 1; 2.05 at time 2; and 1.78 at time 3. The number of symptoms reported increased with the amount of playing time at each time point.

Gaming was diagnosed as pathologic in 9.9% of players at time 1; 8.8% at time 2; and 7.6% at time 3 and was more often diagnosed in boys than girls at all 3 time points. Of the 219 children who were pathologic gamers at time 1, 84% were still pathologic gamers 2 years later. Those who became pathologic gamers had higher scores for impulsivity and lower scores for social competence, emotional regulation, and empathy.

Those who became pathologic gamers had an average of 31 hours of play per week at time 1 compared with an average of 19 hours per week for those who never became pathologic gamers.

Researchers note that once players became pathologic gamers, they began to have poorer grades and poorer relationships with their parents and to be exposed to more violent games. Those who played violent games began to show more aggressive behaviors and have normative beliefs about aggression. Children who became pathologic gamers had higher levels of depression, anxiety, and social phobia at time 3. The researchers did not identify any factors that helped pathologic gamers overcome their addiction.

Gentile DA, Choo H, Liau A, et al. Pathological video game use among youths: a two-year longitudinal study. Pediatrics. 2011;127(2):e319-e329.