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Authors: Anise M. S. Wu, Juliet Honglei Chen, Kwok-Kit Tong, Shu Yu and Joseph T. F. Lau

Background and aims

Internet gaming disorder (IGD) has been mainly studied among adolescents, and no research to date has examined its prevalence in general Chinese adult populations. This study estimated the prevalence of probable IGD in community-dwelling adults in Macao, China. Associations between IGD and psychological distress (i.e., depression and anxiety) as well as IGD and character strength (i.e., psychological resilience and purpose in life) were also tested.

Methods

A random, representative sample of 1,000 Chinese residents (44% males; mean age = 40.0) was surveyed using a telephone poll design from October to November 2016.

Results

The estimated prevalence of probable IGD was 2.0% of the overall sample and 4.3% among the recent gamers (n = 473), with no statistically significant sex and age effects observed (p > .05). The two most prevalent IGD symptoms were mood modification and continued engagement, despite negative consequences. Probable IGD respondents were more vulnerable to psychological distress (25.0% and 45.0% for moderate or above levels of depression and anxiety, respectively) than their non-IGD counterparts. They also reported a lower level of psychological resilience than non-IGD respondents. No significant buffering effect of the two character strength variables on the distress–IGD relationship was found.

Discussion and conclusions

These results provide empirical evidence that IGD is a mental health threat not only to adolescents but also to adults. IGD was significantly associated with psychological distress, which should be addressed in conjunction with IGD symptoms in interventions. Inclusion of gamers of both sexes and different age groups in future prevention programs is also recommended.

Open access

Abstract

Background and aims

Internet gaming disorder (IGD) has been recognized as a mental illness. Cognitive and emotional illness representations affect coping and health outcomes. Very little is known about such perceptions related to IGD, in both general and diseased populations. This study examined the psychometric properties of the Revised Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ-R) for IGD in a general population that included mostly non-cases while a small proportion of the sample was IGD cases.

Methods

An anonymous cross-sectional telephone survey was conducted in a random sample of 1,501 Chinese community-dwelling adults (41.3% male; mean age = 40.42, SD = 16.85) in Macao, China.

Results

The confirmatory factor analysis identified a modified 6-factor model (i.e., timeline cyclical, consequences, personal control, treatment control, illness coherence, and emotional representations) of 26 items that showed satisfactory model fit and internal consistency. Criterion-related validity was supported by the constructs' significant correlations with stigma (positive correlations: timeline cyclical, consequence, emotional representations; negative correlations: illness coherence). Ever-gamers, compared to never-gamers, reported higher mean scores in the subscales of personal control and illness coherence, and lower mean scores in time cyclical, consequence, and emotional representations. Among the sampled gamers, probable IGD cases were more likely than non-IGD cases to perceive IGD as cyclical and involved more negative emotions.

Conclusions

This study shows that the revised 26-item version of IPQ-R is a valid instrument for assessing illness representation regarding IGD in a general population of Chinese adults. It can be used in future research that examines factors of incidence and prevention related to IGD.

Open access