"Research also suggests that boys and young men are much more likely than girls and young women to exhibit disordered gaming behavior. In a 2017 German study of 12- to 25-year-olds, the estimated prevalence of gaming disorder was 8.4% in males versus 2.9% in females. Because the disorder has been identified in so few girls and women, Gentile says, it’s not known whether it manifests differently than in boys and men.

Experts have wondered whether children or adults who are already depressed or anxious may be more likely to develop a gaming addiction, as a means of coping or hiding from real life. But research shows that disordered gaming behavior isn’t simply a symptom of these conditions, Gentile says.

“In fact, when kids become addicted to games, their depression increases and their anxiety increases,” he says. “And if they stop being addicted, we see the opposite pattern; their depression gets better. So it looks like the gaming can definitely feed some of these other problems.”

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