Older people may be more at risk from gaming addiction

A researcher from James Cook University has found teens and young adults are more at risk from computer gaming addiction than children.

Dr Peter Chew is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at JCU. He was part of a team that looked at studies of Internet and gaming addictions in Southeast Asia. He said the World Health Organisation (WHO) has formally recognised Gaming Disorder as a mental health condition.

“The WHO defines it as gaming marked by inability to control, prioritisation of gaming over other activities, and persistent or exacerbated gaming behaviour despite negative life consequences,” he said.

The research team found the average age was significantly higher for gaming disorders than for simple internet addiction.

Samples from Southeast Asiashowed higher prevalence rates of gaming disorders in older people than younger. Adolescents and adults (17.7%) and adults only (15.4%) had higher rates than children and adolescents (9.3%), children (7.5%), and adolescents (5.4%).

“We think this is because older individuals, such as college students and working adults have more autonomy. This, coupled with their technological proficiency and the lack of external supervision, may put them at higher risk for gaming disorders,” said Dr Chew.

The researchers found some studies suggested certain personality types were more at risk than others.

“People who were lonely or had lower levels of self-esteem may be more at risk. Older people may be more inclined than children to play virtual games to build their self-identity and social relationships or to compensate such unfulfilled needs in real life,” said Dr Chew.

He said researchers believed addiction to online gaming was more of a problem in Southeast Asia than Europe or America.

“Western countries are often perceived as having a more individualistic culture than the Southeast Asian countries. A higher level of individualism, manifested by increased needs for achievement, autonomy, and dominance, and reduced need for affiliation, was significantly associated with a lower degree of Internet and gamingaddiction,” said Dr Chew.

He said the age differences were not as pronounced for Internet addiction.

“This may be because Internet addiction encompasses a wide range of other behaviours including gambling, social media, and shopping and not simply just games.”

Dr Chew said the prevalence rates for Internet addiction and gaming disorders in Southeast Asia were 20.0% and 10.1% respectively.

“There is a lot more study to be done, the data we were working with has some noticeable limitations. But there are several clinical implications arising from the current findings that are applicable worldwide.

“Screening for these disorders should be proactive. With an emphasis on those with other psychiatric disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, social anxiety disorder, depressive disorder and alcohol abuse, as these have been linked with Internet and gaming disorders,” he said.

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