Relationships of internet gaming reasons to biological indicators and risk of internet gaming addiction in Korean adolescent male game users

Kim, Nahyun; Kim, Mi J.; Hughes, Tonda L.; Kwak, Hyeweon; Kong, In D.

There are no standard diagnostic criteria or interventions for internet gaming addiction (IGA) even though IGA is one of the most pervasive public health issues among youth worldwide. Internet gaming reasons or motivations have been studied as a potential predictor of IGA, but the results have been inconsistent and biological indicators of gaming reasons have rarely been studied. We sought to (1) identify categories of internet gaming reasons, (2) examine the relationship of gaming reasons to risk of IGA, and (3) describe biological indicators associated with reasons for gaming.

We used a multi-phase cross-sectional design including individual interviews; focus group discussion; and descriptive, comparative analysis. Fifteen Korean adolescent male internet gamers participated in individual interviews and eight participated in a focus group aimed at identifying reasons for internet gaming. Using the identified gaming reasons from these sources we surveyed 225 adolescent game users using a self-report questionnaire. Participants provided blood samples for assessment of norepinephrine (NE) and serum cortisol.

We identified four major categories of internet gaming reasons: entertainment, getting along with friends, stress relief, and habitual gaming. The habitual group showed significantly greater risk of IGA than the other groups (p < .001) and the lowest plasma NE levels (p = .035), possibly indicating an alteration in autonomic function.

Health care providers are encouraged to screen adolescents for excessive internet gaming and to intervene with those who report habitual gaming behaviors. When feasible, assessment of biological indicators, such as plasma NE, may help to identify youth at greatest risk of IGA.

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September 22, 2023


Addiction, Adolescent, Internet, Motivation, Norepinephrine