Nearly one in five people ages 10 to 29 plays video games for three hours or more on weekdays, according to a nationwide survey on young people’s addiction to video games, also known as gaming disorder.
Released Wednesday, the survey was the first of its kind to be conducted in this nation.
As the impact on people’s lives and health has become clear, the government intends to strengthen measures against game addiction from next fiscal year.
The survey was part of the projects overseen by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, and was conducted from January to March this year by the National Hospital Organization Kurihama Medical and Addiction Center in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Responses were received from 5,096 people ages 10 to 29, and the center inquired about the situation of 4,438 of them who had played games in the past year.
Asked how many hours they spend playing games on weekdays, 60 percent of respondents said they spend one hour or more on games, while 18.3 percent spend three hours or more.
By gender, 24.6 percent of male respondents and 10.4 percent of female respondents said they spend three hours or more. The percentage of people who play games for three hours or more on holidays was 37. 8 percent. More than 20 percent of all respondents answered that sometimes they could not stop playing when they were supposed to.
In addition, 2.8 percent of respondents said they would play games for six hours or more on weekdays. Among that group, more than 20 percent said they continued to play games even if their studies were adversely affected or they lost their jobs, or that playing games was more important than studying, working, socializing with friends or family events.
About 40 percent of respondents who said they played games for six hours or more continued to play games despite experiencing headaches, sleep disorders and other health problems.
The World Health Organization identified gaming disorder as a mental illness in May this year, but there are no guidelines for its treatment.
“With the spread of smartphones, an increasing number of young people are becoming addicted to online games, which has adversely affected their daily lives. It’s necessary to prepare guidelines and manuals for those who receive consultations and doctors who treat patients,” said Susumu Higuchi, director of the center.
From next fiscal year, the ministry plans to add game addiction to training programs, aimed at the use of alcohol, drugs and gambling, for people involved in local health care.