The World Health Organisation (WHO) has officially recognised gaming disorder as an international disease. According to a report by Nikkei, the decision was approved at WHO’s 25th annual general meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on Saturday.
Gaming disorder will be added to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which is referred to by medical institutions and insurance companies around the world as guidelines for diseases.
According to WHO, game dependence is characterised by a patient’s inability to control the amount of time they spend playing games and how frequently they do so, leading to a significantly impaired lifestyle.
WHO now expects to move forward with further research into gaming disorder.
The organisation has been looking into the public health implications of excessive internet, computer and electronic device use since 2014, and last year it included gaming as a medical disorder in the 11th revision of the ICD.
It defined gaming disorder “as a clinically recognizable and clinically significant syndrome, when the pattern of gaming behaviour is of such a nature and intensity that it results in marked distress or significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational or occupational functioning”.
The decision to classify gaming disorder as a disease follows further investigation and dialogue with the video games and related industries.
The games industry had argued that further research must be conducted before coming to any conclusion on the matter.
Stanley Pierre-Louis, head of the Entertainment Software Association, the industry trade body which counts PlayStation, Microsoft, Nintendo, Activision Blizzard and Epic Games among its members, said in January after meeting with WHO officials: “We believe that continued conversation and education is needed before any classification is finalized.
“In fact, leading mental health experts have cautioned repeatedly that classifying ‘Gaming Disorder’ creates a risk of misdiagnosis for patients who most need help.
“It’s our hope that through continued dialogue we can help the WHO avoid rushed action and mistakes that could take years to correct,” Pierre-Louis added.
“The billions of video game players around the world who will be affected by an ICD-11 classification error deserve action based on meticulous research.”