Many parents will have thought it for a long time, but they now have a new argument to limit their children’s ‘screen time’ – addiction to video games has been recognized by World Health Organization as a mental health disorder.
The WHO’s latest reference bible of recognized and diagnosable diseases describes addiction to digital and video gaming as “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior” that becomes so extensive that it “takes precedence over other life interests”.
The International Classification of Diseases (ICD), which has been updated over the past 10 years, now covers 55,000 injuries, diseases and causes of death. It forms a basis for the WHO and other experts to see and respond to trends in health.
“It enables us to understand so much about what makes people get sick and die, and to take action to prevent suffering and save lives,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement as the ICD was published.
The ICD is also used by health insurers whose reimbursements depend on ICD classifications.
This latest version – known as ICD-11 – is completely electronic for the first time, in an effort to make it more accessible to doctors and other health workers around the world.
ICD-11 also includes changes to sexual health classifications. Previous editions had categorized sexual dysfunction and gender incongruence, for example, under mental health conditions, while in ICD-11 these move to the sexual health section. The latest edition also has a new chapter on traditional medicine.
The updated ICD is scheduled to be presented to WHO member states at their annual World Health Assembly in May 2019 for adoption in January 2022, the WHO said in a statement.