WHO recognizes gaming disorder as an illness

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World Health Organisation recognises Gaming disorder

The World Health Organisation has recognised ‘gaming disorder’ as an official illness.

At the global health body’s 72nd annual World Health Assembly, which took place last week, the WHO’s 194 members voted to ratify the eleventh iteration of its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (known as ICD-11). As we reported last June, the most controversial feature of ICD-11 was its inclusion for the first time of gaming disorder.

The WHO defines gaming disorder as: “A pattern of behaviour characterised by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

In June 2018, WHO stated: “For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.”

The WHO’s decision to recognise gaming disorder as an illness in ICD-11 met widespread opposition from videogames industry bodies. A joint statement issued by the Entertainment Software Association and the European Games Developer Federation stated: “In view of the publication by the WHO of the so-called ICD-11 list, organisations representing video game publishers and developers across the world would like to express their concern: video games across all kinds of genres, devices and platforms are enjoyed safely and sensibly by more than 2 billion people worldwide, with the educational, therapeutic, and recreational value of games being well-founded and widely recognised. We are therefore concerned to see ‘gaming disorder’ still contained in the latest version of the WHO’s ICD-11 despite significant opposition from the medical and scientific community.”

The statement added: “The evidence for its inclusion remains highly contested and inconclusive. We hope that the WHO will reconsider the mounting evidence put before them before proposing inclusion in the final version of ICD-11 to be endorsed next year.” But with the ratification of ICD-11, those entreaties fell on deaf ears.

For more information about gaming disorder and ICD-11, visit the WHO website.

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Steve Boxer
Steve Boxer has been writing about videogames since the early 1990s. His first console was an Atari VCS, and he misspent most of his youth in the 1980s in the arcades. As well as for Green Man Gaming, he can be found writing for The Guardian, Empire, TechRadar and Pocket-Lint. He’s currently having trouble deciding whether his favourite console is his Xbox One X or his Switch, and plays a wide range of games, but especially RPGs (he loves a good JRPG) action-adventure titles, shooters of all descriptions and driving games. Follow him here.