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Keywords:

  • Adolescents;
  • adults;
  • gaming addiction;
  • prevalence study;
  • problematic computer game use

Abstract

Aims

Playing digital games has been associated with forms of addictive behavior. Past research on the subject has often been criticized on theoretical and empirical grounds, due mainly to measurement or sampling issues. The present study aims to overcome these two limitations, and presents data from a representative study in Germany using an already established instrument for measuring problematic game use.

Design

Large-scale, representative study using a computer-assisted telephone survey.

Setting

Germany.

Participants

A total of 580 adolescents between 14 and 18 years of age, 1866 younger adults between 19–39 years and 1936 older adults aged 40 years and older (overall n = 4382).

Measurements

Problematic game use was measured with the Gaming Addiction Short Scale (GAS), which covers seven criteria including salience, withdrawal and conflicts. Additionally, differential aspects of personality, as well as gaming behaviour, were measured.

Findings

Only seven respondents [0.2%, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.1, 0.3] met all criteria of the GAS Scale. In contrast, 3.7% (95% CI: 3.1, 4.3) of the respondents can be considered problematic users, meeting at least half these conditions. The percentage of problematic gamers among adolescents is above average (7.6%, 95% CI: 5.6, 10.1). High GAS scores are associated with aggression, low sociability and self-efficacy and lower satisfaction with life. Additionally, these scores correspond with intensive use and preferences for certain gaming genres across all age groups.

Conclusions

Following Gaming Addiction Short Scale criteria, gaming addiction is currently not a widespread phenomenon among adolescents and adults in Germany. Gaming Addiction Short Scale scores are associated with intensive use, as well as certain problematic aspects of individuals' personalities and social lives.