A new study suggests that you can step away from your computer and stop playing online video games anytime … you just might not want to. That’s because, according to researchers at Oxford University, internet gaming is not as addictive as gambling.
The study, which was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, is the first real effort to attempt to measure the impact of addiction and so-called “internet gaming disorder” as it’s defined by the American Psychiatric Association. It’s not an “official” disorder, according to Psychology Today, but one the APA wants more studies on — like this one. In order for the conditions for internet gaming disorder to be met, a person must report at least five of the following criteria within a year:
Preoccupation or obsession with Internet games.
Withdrawal symptoms when not playing Internet games.
A build-up of tolerance–more time needs to be spent playing the games.
The person has tried to stop or curb playing Internet games, but has failed to do so.
The person has had a loss of interest in other life activities, such as hobbies.
A person has had continued overuse of Internet games even with the knowledge of how much they impact a person’s life.
The person lied to others about his or her Internet game usage.
The person uses Internet games to relieve anxiety or guilt–it’s a way to escape.
The person has lost or put at risk and opportunity or relationship because of Internet games.
For this study, researchers from the university’s Internet Institute surveyed 19,000 men and women from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and Germany. Half of the respondents said they had played internet games recently, and between 2 and 3 percent of those people identified with at least five of the criteria on the list. Between 0.5 and 1 percent of them reported feelings of “significant distress” about their inability to stop playing or cut back.
The rates were less than half of those reported in the British Gambling Prevalence Survey.
“Contrary to what was predicted, the study did not find a clear link between potential addiction and negative effects on health,” explained lead study author Dr. Andrew Przybylski. “However, more research grounded in open and robust scientific practices is needed to learn if games are truly as addictive as many fear.”
“Importantly, the great majority of gamers — nearly three in four — reported no symptoms at all that we would link with addictive gaming behavior,” Przybylski continued, though the overall tone of the study stressed that more research on the subject is needed.