The World Health Organisation (WHO) has, for the first time, tagged compulsive video gaming as a mental health condition in its updated classification manual released on Monday.
The UN health agency said video game addiction should now officially read ‘gaming disorder’.
“For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning,’’ WHO said.
It added that such behavioural pattern would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.
The formal designation of “gaming disorder” within WHO’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) was welcomed by some groups as helpful to sufferers.
Others, however, saw the official designation as causing needless concern among parents.
“There are few truer snapshots of a country’s well-being than its health statistics,’’ the UN agency also said.
WHO said while broad economic indicators such as Gross Domestic Product may skew impressions of individual prosperity, data on disease and death reveal how a population is truly faring.
According to WHO, ICD is the “bedrock for health statistics,” codifying the human condition from birth to death, including all factors that influence health.
These statistics form the basis for healthcare provision everywhere and are at the core of mapping disease trends and epidemics; helping governments decide how money is spent on health services.
WHO said crucially, in a world of 7.4 billion people speaking nearly 7,000 languages, ICD provides a common vocabulary for recording, reporting and monitoring health problems.
“Fifty years ago, it would be unlikely that a disease, such as schizophrenia, would be diagnosed similarly in Japan, Kenya and Brazil.
“Now, however, if a doctor in another country cannot read a person’s medical records, they will know what the ICD code means,’’ WHO explained.
Without the ICD’s ability to provide standardised, consistent data, each country or region would have its own classifications that would most likely only be relevant locally.
“Standardisation is the key that unlocks global health data analysis,’’ WHO said.
The 11th edition of ICD was released to allow Member States time to plan implementation before it is presented for adoption at the 2019 World Health Assembly.
Noting that it has been updated for the 21st century, WHO said “over a decade in the making, this version is a vast improvement on ICD-10.’’
It added that ICD now reflects critical advances in science and medicine.
Moreover, the guidelines can also be integrated with modern electronic health applications and information systems – making implementation significantly easier, vulnerable to fewer mistakes and allowing more detail to be recorded.