World Health Organization Designates Gaming Addiction as a Disease

Youths play video games in front of a computer in Valencia on July 15, 2016 during the Dreamhack meeting at Valencia fair where teams compete in various video game events JOSE JORDAN/AFP/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has officially designated "gaming disorder" as a mental health disorder.

Members of the WHO voted over the weekend to approve the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, which defines "gaming disorder" as a disease. The updated ICD will not be adopted until 2022.

The ICD-11 says the disorder is "characterized 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."

The WHO noted that gaming disorder was a relatively rare condition, writing that "studies suggest that gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people who engage in digital- or video-gaming activities."

The designation is likely to draw backlash from the video game industry. In response to the WHO's move, industry lobby organization the Video Games Coalition said that their products had "educational, therapeutic, and recreational value" and were "enjoyed safely and sensibly by more than 2 billion people worldwide," according to NBC News.

Still, ahead of the WHO decision, Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said that "we need to take it seriously and adopt countermeasures." He did not specify what actions he was suggesting.

Youths play video games in front of a computer in Valencia, Spain, on July 15, 2016. JOSE JORDAN/AFP/Getty Images

The American Psychiatric Association has been hesitant to categorize gaming as an addiction, noting that research is ongoing and that scientists are looking into whether gaming is a sign of depression or anxiety.

Experts have expressed concern about the designation, also saying that more research is needed on the topic.

Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, wrote in February 2018 that "WHO's tentative move to pathologize digital play is premature." In his February article in The Guardian, he wrote that existing studies were marred by methodological errors. He again expressed concern about the quality of research in August while speaking with the British Psychological Society.

Przybylski and almost 30 other academics noted a lack of agreement among scholars studying the topic and issued a call for more research in 2017.

Over 150 million Americans play video games, according to the Entertainment Software Association, which also said that 60 percent of Americans play video games each day.