A new research study conducted by Oxford University has found insufficient evidence to suggest that gaming should be classified as a clinical disorder. It notes that gamers who are heavily affected by the problem are likely to be suffering from wider, unrelated issues.
The study comes as a direct response to World Health Organisation's decision to classify gaming addiction as a mental health condition. Rather than describing gaming as an addiction in its own right, the study suggests that "those engaged in dysfunctional gaming are likely to have underlying frustrations and wider psychosocial functioning issues outside of games", with gaming actually acting as a relief from these external issues in some cases.
Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute and co-author of the study, has shared the following:
"The World Health Organisation and the American Psychiatric Association have called on researchers to investigate the clinical relevance of dysregulated video-gaming among adolescents, as previous studies have 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. 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 dysregulated – or obsessive – gaming engagement.
"Our findings provided no evidence suggesting an unhealthy relationship with gaming accounts for substantial emotional, peer and behavioural problems. Instead, variations in gaming experience are much more likely to be linked to whether adolescents’ basic psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and social belonging are being met and if they are already experiencing wider functioning issues. 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."
Dr Netta Weinstein, Senior Lecturer at the University of Cardiff's School of Psychology and co-author of the report said, “We urge healthcare professionals to look more closely at the underlying factors such as psychological satisfactions and everyday frustrations to understand why a minority of players feel like they must engage in gaming in an obsessive way.”
Earlier this month, it was revealed that UK doctors will be able to refer young patients to be treated for video game addiction.