According to new research published by the Oxford Internet Institute, there is not enough evidence to suggest that excessive gaming is a clinical disorder. Instead, the researchers concluded that unhealthy gaming habits are more likely a response to external issues or separate psychological disorders and not likely to be an issue with the nature of the games themselves. Using a survey group of over 1,000 adolescents and their caregivers, the research uniquely extended beyond just game playing to consider the context around gaming habits.
The Oxford Internet Institute’s Study is titled “Investigating the Motivational and Psychological Dynamics of Dysregulated Gaming” and comes in response to the World Health Organization’s recent controversial decision to classify “gaming disorder” as an addiction-based disease in the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD-11).
In light of our findings we do not believe sufficient evidence exists to warrant thinking about gaming as a clinical disorder in its own right.
According to Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute and co-author of the new study with Dr. Netta Weinstein, said research on gaming disorder previously had “failed to examine the wider context of what is going on in these young peoples’ lives.”
“This is something we seek to address with our new study,” Przybylski said. “For the first time we apply motivational theory and open science principles to investigate if psychological need satisfactions and frustrations in adolescents’ daily lives are linked to [disregulated]–or obsessive–gaming engagement.”
The study compared the self-reported gaming habits of adolescents to with information provided by their caregivers on the emotional and social stability of those adolescents. According to Przybylski and the Institute’s research, there is “no evidence suggesting an unhealthy relationship with gaming accounts for substantial emotional, peer, and [behavioral] problems,” and finds instead that the data suggests that the variations in the quantity and quality of gaming is “much more likely” to be related to their overall emotional health, with gaming acting as a potential refuge from stressors.
The study found that most teenagers play at least one game online every day for about three hours and that less than half of daily online gamers self-reported behaviors typical of obsessive gaming. The study also found “little evidence that obsessive gaming significantly impacted adolescent outcomes.” Przybylski adds that researchers “need better data and the cooperation of video gaming companies if we are to get to the bottom of all this.”