The relationship between mental well-being and dysregulated gaming: A specification curve analysis of five gaming disorder scales


Gaming disorder (also known as dysregulated gaming) has received significant research and policy attention based on concerns that certain patterns of play are associated with decreased mental well-being and/or functional impairment. In this study, we use specification curve analysis to examine analytical flexibility and the strength of the relationship between dysregulated gaming and well-being in the form of general mental health, depressive mood, and life satisfaction. Dutch and Flemish gamers (n = 424) completed five unique dysregulated gaming measures (covering nine scale variants) and three well-being measures. We find a consistent negative relationship; across 972 justifiable regression models, the median standardized regression coefficient was –0.40 (min: –0.54, max: –0.19). Data show that the majority of dysregulated gaming operationalizations converge upon highly similar estimates of well-being (i.e. have similar concurrent validity). However, variance is introduced by the choice of well-being measure; results indicate that dysregulated gaming is more strongly associated with depressive mood than with life satisfaction. Weekly gametime accounted for little to no unique variance in well-being in the sample. We argue that research on this topic should compare a broad range of functional and well-being outcomes, and work to identify a maximally parsimonious of dysregulated gaming criteria. Given somewhat minute differences between dysregulated gaming scales when used in survey-based studies and largely equivalent relationships with mental health indicators, harmonization of measurement should be a priority.

Royal Society Open Science