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'Gaming disorder' on iPhone & other platforms recognized by World Health Organization

The member states of the World Health Organization have voted to adopt a revised list of diseases which includes addiction to video games —including smartphone titles —as a mental health disorder.

Playing Fortnight on an iPhone

Playing Fortnight on an iPhone


At its 2019 annual general meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, the member countries of the World Health Organization have officially recognized an addiction to gaming on smartphones and other devices as an international disease. The World Health Assembly voted to accept the revised list, called ICD-11, which nations take into account when planning public health strategies.

"Studies suggest that gaming disorder affects only a small proportion of people who engage in digital- or video-gaming activities," said the World Health Organization in a statement. "However, people who partake in gaming should be alert to the amount of time they spend on gaming activities, particularly when it is to the exclusion of other daily activities."

"Understanding what makes people sick, and what eventually kills them, is at the core of mapping disease trends and epidemics, deciding how to programme health services, allocate healthcare spending, and invest in improving therapies and prevention," continued the World Health Organization. "ICD-11 has been updated for the 21st century and reflects critical advances in science and medicine."

Journalist Rintaro Hosokawa covered the Assembly for the Nikkei publication and reports that the organization has further defined the symptoms of the disease. "According to WHO, [sufferers] cannot control the time and frequency of playing games by themselves," said Hosokawa (in translation), "[They] give top priority to the game and continue even through the problem is happening for more than 12 months."

ICD-11, or the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, will come into effect on January 1, 2022.

The decision comes as Apple is both stepping up its Screen Time efforts to help people understand how long they spend on their iPhones, and launching its gaming Apple Arcade.