World Health Organization officially recognises ‘gaming disorder’

Further to a vote last week, the 194 members of the World Health Organization (WHO) have agreed to recognise “gaming disorder” as an illness at the 72nd World Health Assembly. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) – which opposed the addition – and the WHO met in December to discuss the decision last year to list “gaming disorder” as an official addictive disorder in the 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

“It’s our hope that through continued dialogue we can help the WHO avoid rushed action and mistakes that could take years to correct,” ESA head Stanley Pierre-Louis said at the time, while British trade body UKIE – which also attended the World Health Organization talks back in December – said in a statement that it hoped “continued dialogue” would enable WHO to “reconsider the mounting evidence put before them before the final version of ICD-11 is endorsed”.

Despite the opposition, however, the WHO says the decision to include gaming disorder was based on available evidence and reflected the consensus of experts. Consequently, ICD-11 has now been adopted by the World Health Assembly and will come into effect on January 1st, 2022.

The disorder is described as: a pattern of “persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour, which may be online or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context); 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences”.

It also added that if the symptoms last for at least 12 months and a player’s behaviour “is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning”, people could be diagnosed with the disorder.

“The inclusion of gaming disorder in ICD-11 follows the development of treatment programmes for people with health conditions identical to those characteristic of gaming disorder in many parts of the world, and will result in the increased attention of health professionals to the risks of development of this disorder and, accordingly, to relevant prevention and treatment measures,” WHO said.

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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