A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Summer, 2017 | Number 3, Volume 31

Rates of pathological video gaming high for adults with ASD

Adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are at higher risk for pathological video game use than their neurotypical peers, according to a new study. The study is consistent with earlier research showing that children and adolescents with ASD are more likely than neurotypical peers to engage in problematic game use. 

Christopher Engelhardt and colleagues asked 119 adults with and without ASD to fill out forms measuring their daily hours of video game use, the percentage of their free time they spent playing video games, and their symptoms of pathological game use (for instance, a preoccupation with gaming, “withdrawal” symptoms if they tried to quit, a decline in health or hygiene due to excessive gaming, and lying to others about the amount of time spent gaming). The researchers say that adults with ASD reported significantly more symptoms of video game pathology than their neurotypical peers reported. In addition, they spent more hours per day playing video games and spent a higher percentage of their free time gaming. For both the ASD and neurotypical groups, the motive of “escapism” was associated with higher rates of gaming pathology. 

The researchers say, “Adults with ASD are already at risk for poor outcomes, including reduced engagement in social and community activities, education, and employment. Excessive or pathological use of video games may exacerbate these difficulties, displacing time that could be spent on social, occupational, or other recreational activities. Furthermore, given evidence from the general population, pathological game use may exacerbate core or co-occurring symptoms among adults with ASD, particularly worsening mood, anxiety, irritability, and social isolation.” They note, however, that adults with ASD experience some benefits from gaming, including reduced stress and more social connections.


“Pathological game use in adults with and without autism spectrum disorder,” Christopher R. Engelhardt, Micah O. Mazurek, and Joseph Hilgard, PeerJ, June 26, 2017 (online). Address: Micah O. Mazurek, [email protected] ouri.edu.