Internet Gaming Disorder: Investigating the Clinical Relevance of a New Phenomenon

Am J Psychiatry. 2017 Mar 1;174(3):230-236. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.16020224. Epub 2016 Nov 4.


Objective: The American Psychiatric Association (APA) identified Internet gaming disorder as a new potential psychiatric disorder and has recognized that little is known about the prevalence, validity, or cross-cultural robustness of proposed Internet gaming disorder criteria. In response to this gap in our understanding, the present study, a first for this research topic, estimated the period prevalence of this new potential psychiatric disorder using APA guidance, examined the validity of its proposed indicators, evaluated reliability cross-culturally and across genders, compared it to gold-standard research on gambling addiction and problem gaming, and estimated its impact on physical, social, and mental health.

Method: Four survey studies (N=18,932) with large international cohorts employed an open-science methodology wherein the analysis plans for confirmatory hypotheses were registered prior to data collection.

Results: Among those who played games, more than 2 out of 3 did not report any symptoms of Internet gaming disorder, and findings showed that a very small proportion of the general population (between 0.3% and 1.0%) might qualify for a potential acute diagnosis of Internet gaming disorder. Comparison to gambling disorder revealed that Internet-based games may be significantly less addictive than gambling and similarly dysregulating as electronic games more generally.

Conclusions: The evidence linking Internet gaming disorder to game engagement was strong, but links to physical, social, and mental health outcomes were decidedly mixed.

Keywords: Computers; Diagnosis And Classification; Tests/Interviews-Psychometric.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Behavior, Addictive / classification
  • Behavior, Addictive / diagnosis*
  • Behavior, Addictive / epidemiology
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology
  • Canada
  • Checklist
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Gambling / classification
  • Gambling / diagnosis
  • Gambling / epidemiology
  • Gambling / psychology
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Report
  • Societies, Medical
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Video Games*
  • Young Adult