Study: Pandemic fuels video game and internet addictions in Japan


Addictions to online activities and video games increased in Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic, and addiction to such diversions was more pronounced among those infected with the virus, a survey showed.

The study, conducted in August 2020 by researchers primarily from mobile operator KDDI Corp. and the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR), surveyed 50,000 men and women aged 20 to 69 across the country.

“People’s addiction (on the internet and video games) has increased in the coronavirus outbreak,” said Taiki Oka, an ATR official who compiled the research results.

Around 4,000 of those surveyed were also covered in the previous survey conducted in December 2019, allowing researchers to compare the level of internet and video game addiction before the pandemic and after the virus spread in Japan.

Based on a rating scale used globally for internet addiction and video game disorders, the study found that the number of people with signs of internet addiction increased by 1, 5 times to reach 11.6%, compared to 7.9% during this period.

They put their online activities first or were unable to control the time they spent on the Internet.

According to the study, people who spend more time on their smartphones on weekdays and weekends are more likely to develop internet addiction.

According to data from the Ministry of Telecommunications, smartphone use has increased on working days and holidays during COVID-19 states of emergency.

The research team said the spread of the virus has led people to postpone non-emergency plans, giving them more time to play on their phones.

The rate of people addicted to video games increased 1.6 times, from 3.7% to 5.9%, according to the study.

Drug addicts were defined as those who were unable to stop playing video games, made games the top priority in daily life, and showed other signs of video game disorder.

There has also been an increase in the number of people suffering from other symptoms of the disorder, including a growing desire to play harder-to-beat titles and “withdrawal symptoms” resulting from stopping playing.

Patients with COVID-19 were 5.67 times more likely to become addicted to video games than those without the virus, the study showed.

Patients have apparently increased their use of video games and the Internet to alleviate the stress resulting from infection.

Internet or video game addiction was particularly high among those under 30.

Oka said such addictions should not be seen as a temporary issue with a pandemic.

“Getting infections under control (to reduce addiction rates) is essential, but how to live well with smartphones and video games must also be considered at the same time,” he said.

The team’s findings were published in the mental medicine journal Journal of Psychiatric Research at (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.07.054).


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