Management of substance abuse

Public health implications of excessive use of the Internet and other communication and gaming platforms

Use of the Internet, computers, smartphones and other electronic devices has dramatically increased over recent decades, and this increase is associated not only with clear and tremendous benefits to the users, but also with documented cases of excessive use which often has negative health consequences. In an increasing number of countries and jurisdictions, the problem has reached the magnitude of a significant public health concern.

WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse has started activities on public health implications of excessive use of the Internet, computers, smartphones and similar electronic devices in 2014 in response to the concerns expressed by professional groups, WHO collaborating centers, academics and clinicians about public health relevance of health conditions associated with excessive use of the Internet and other communication and gaming platforms.

At the first WHO meeting on these issues – organized in 2014 in Tokyo, Japan, in collaboration with Kurihama Medical and Addiction Centre, - a group of experts from different parts of the world discussed the available evidence on the epidemiology, nature, phenomenology, outcomes and public health implications of health conditions associated with excessive use of the Internet, smartphones and similar electronic devices.

The second WHO meeting in Seoul, Republic of Korea – organized in 2015 in collaboration with the Korean Association of Addiction Psychiatry and Catholic Kwan Dong University – addressed the spectrum, taxonomy and clinical descriptions of behavioural disorders associated with excessive use of the Internet and other communication and gaming platforms within the conceptual framework of disorders due to addictive behaviours and the context of the 11th revision of International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

The third WHO meeting – organized in September 2016 in collaboration with the Department of Health of Hong Kong SAR, China – focused on health promotion, prevention and treatment policies and programmes aimed at reducing public health problems associated with excessive use of the Internet, computers, smartphones and other communication and gaming platforms.