Medical associations voice support for WHO classification of gaming addiction as disorder

By Kim Arin
  • Published : Jun 10, 2019 - 17:37
  • Updated : Jun 10, 2019 - 17:37

Medical associations in Korea have voiced support for the World Health Organization’s designation of gaming addiction as a disease.

The Korean Neuropsychiatric Association, Association of Neuropsychiatric Practitioners, Korean Society of Epidemiology, Korean Pediatric Society and Korea Society of Preventive Medicine jointly released a statement Monday in support of the WHO’s recent move to recognize gaming addiction as a form of mental illness. The decision by the WHO was finalized May 25 at the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.


The five medicine and health science societies said the listing of gaming disorder on the International Classification of Diseases is “reflective of the rise in health service needs for functional impairment from addictive use of gaming,” calling the classification “appropriate.”

Regarding backlash from the gaming industry, they said turning the issue into a debate about what is at stake for the industry is “peripheral and irrelevant to the point of the discussion,” which is the “establishment of a diagnostic system for an emerging health concern.”

They also countered the gaming industry’s argument that the WHO decision stigmatizes all game users as mentally ill, saying the classification addresses excessive gaming leading to impairment in performing everyday activities. Medical intervention can reduce the health risk, just as with any addictive disorder, they said.

The medical associations said developing addiction in childhood and adolescence in particular can pose serious health risks, such as hindrances to language acquisition, academic performance and interpersonal skills.

They added that a lot of the criticism against the classification of gaming disorder as a disease is “a distortion of facts and exaggeration,” and argued that behavioral disorders arising from problematic gaming are not subjective observations but confirmed research findings.

On the government’s response, they said the ministries should figure out the scale of health damage caused by problematic gaming at the state level; develop measures to support diagnosis and treatment; promote a manual for the healthy use of digital media; and focus the debate on protection and improvement of public health.

World Health Organization member states are required to introduce prevention and treatment measures for gaming disorder by the time the latest edition of the ICD goes into effect in 2022. However, as the Korea Classification of Disease is revised every five years, the relevant measures will go into effect in Korea in 2026.

By Kim Arin (