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Friday, June 22, 2007

AMA considering Video Game Addiction a disorder

In today's headlines, the American Medical Association is considering video game overuse an addiction. While they say a final diagnostic classification for the behavior is a ways off, studies have been conducted and clinical evidence is mounting to support the validity of this new syndrome.

Dr. Martin Wasserman, executive director of MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society, helped spearhead the new proposal, which has resulted in a 10-page report submitted to the AMA by the group's Council on Science and Public Health.

"The concern came up because one of our psychiatrists here in Maryland was seeing older people who were losing their social contacts," specifically because of their overuse of video games, Wasserman said. "It was ruining their family life. So, it was not unlike gambling addictions or alcohol, where it was having a profound impact on the lives of individuals."

According to the AMA report, one soon-to-be-released British study polled 7,000 "gamers" and found that 12 percent of them met World Health Organization criteria for addictive behaviors.

Statistics released in 2005 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), an industry group, estimated that 70 percent to 90 percent of American children play video games. The typical gamer is a 30-year-old male who spends about seven or eight hours a week gaming.

The ESA survey also found that video game overuse was most prevalent among the approximately 9 percent of video game users who play against others online in Internet-based "massive multiplayer online role playing games."

The new AMA report defines "heavy game use" as two or more hours a day, but Wasserman, a pediatrician, said addictions are best defined by their impact on an individual's life and psyche.

We have already discussed in prior blog posts that online gaming has become problematic for many. These new studies bring to light the issues and continue to add to the growing dialogue of how new technologies can clinically impact individuals and families.