ADHD News & Research

Study: ADHD Severity May Predict Video Game Addiction Severity

Individuals with greater ADHD severity reported more severe video game addiction, regardless of type of video game preferred or played, according to a small new study.

July 10, 2018

Individuals with severe ADHD symptoms may be at greater risk for equally severe video game addiction, regardless of type of video game played or preferred the most, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse1.

Researchers from Loma Linda University conducted an online survey of video game players. The survey was available to participants from December 2013 until July 2014. The Young’s Internet Addiction Scale was adapted to measure video game addiction and the Conners’ Adult ADHD Rating Scales: Short Self-Report was used to measure ADHD severity (scores of >65 indicated clinically significant ADHD symptomatology).

Types of games preferred and played the most were used as categorical predictors, one in each regression analysis. Each game genre was compared with massive multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs), since 24.8% of participates identified MMORPGs as the most reinforcing type of game.

Of the 2,801 participants, only 157 (or 5.6%) had clinically significant ADHD symptomatology. They ranged in age from 18 to 57 (mean age = 22.43, standard deviation = 4.70) and 93.3% were male.

In both regression analyses (types of games preferred and played), ADHD symptom severity was significantly and positively associated with video game addition severity. In addition, younger players were at a higher risk for developing problematic play behaviors than were older players. And the number of hours spent playing video games weekly was positively associated with video game addiction severity (P <.001 for all). However, while several types of games played or preferred the most individually predicted addiction severity, the effect sizes were too small and thus not clinically significant.

Limitations of the study included a small sample size; the cohort of participants with diagnosable ADHD included only 157 individuals. Moreover, the results generally reflected the experience of an average male gamer unlikely to meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, since only 6.7% of participants were females and most participants self-reported ADHD symptoms in the non-clinical range.

Given the positive relationship between ADHD and video game addiction, “individuals who report ADHD symptomatology and also identify as gamers may benefit from psychoeducation about the potential risk for problematic play,” concluded the authors.

1Mathews CL, Morrell HER, Molle JE. “Video game addiction, ADHD symptomatology, and video game reinforcement.” The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse online, 6 June 2018. doi: 10.1080/00952990.2018.1472269