A meta-analysis of pathological gaming prevalence and comorbidity with mental health, academic and social problems

Christopher J. Ferguson, Mark Coulson, Jane Barnett

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261 Citations (Scopus)


Mental health professionals, policy makers and the general public continue to debate the issue of pathological video gaming. Scholars disagree on the prevalence and diagnostic criteria for this potential new disorder. The current meta-analysis considers existing scholarship to examine how differing measurement methods influence prevalence rates and associations with other mental health problems.

Thirty three published studies and doctoral dissertations were analyzed in meta-analysis. Prevalence rates and comorbidity with other mental health problems were examined according to measurement method.

Prevalence estimates and comorbidity with other problems varied widely between studies. Measurement which attempted to replicate “pathological gambling” approaches produced higher prevalence estimates and lower comorbidity estimates than methods which focused on the interfering nature of pathological gaming. The most precise measures produce an overall prevalence rate of 3.1%.

Diagnostic analogies with pathological gambling may produce spuriously high prevalence estimates, potentially over identifying non-pathological players as pathological. Diagnostic approaches focused on the interfering nature on other life needs and responsibilities may have greater validity and utility.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1573-1578
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Research
Issue number12
Early online date16 Sep 2011
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011

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