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Oxford researchers say clinical 'gaming disorder' lacks sufficient evidence

Based on the findings of a recent study, Oxford researchers say they "do not believe sufficient evidence exists to warrant thinking about gaming as a clinical disorder in its own right."

Based on the findings of a recent study, Oxford researchers say they “do not believe sufficient evidence exists to warrant thinking about gaming as a clinical disorder in its own right.”

The study, published by Oxford’s Internet Institute, gathered data from over 1,000 adolescents and their caregivers but, unlike how researchers say other studies have been performed, also examined the context surrounding a person’s game habits.

“For the first time we apply motivational theory and open science principles to investigate if psychological need satisfactions and frustrations in adolescents’ daily lives are linked to dysregulated – or obsessive – gaming engagement,” explained the Internet Institute’s director of research and study co-author Professor Andrew Przybylski.

“Our findings provided no evidence suggesting an unhealthy relationship with gaming accounts for substantial emotional, peer and behavioural problems,” he continues. Przybylski says that the study’s findings seem to show that variation in how obsessively adolescents play video games is “much more likely” to be linked to whether or not their basic psychological needs are being bet and if there are other “wider functioning issues” in play.

The study was prompted by the World Health Organization and its recent and controversial decision to classify "gaming disorder" as an addiction-orientated disorder in the most recent revision of the International Compendium of Diseases. 

However researchers note that the study isn’t the end-all-be-all of the issue, and that it’s difficult to get to the core of the problem without additional data from game developers themselves.

"Whilst the growing popularity of gaming has incited concerns from health care and mental health professions, our research provides no compelling evidence that games, on their own, are to blame for problems facing players,” explains Przybylski. “We need better data and the cooperation of video gaming companies if we are to get to the bottom of all this.”

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