Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
June 01, 2022
1 min read

Study: Participation in team sports fosters adolescent mental health

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Results showed that compared with no sport participation, adolescents who participate in team sports experience fewer mental health difficulties, while those who compete in individual sports experience more mental health difficulties.

Matt D. Hoffmann, PhD, and colleagues analyzed data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, which included a sample of 11,235 U.S. children aged 9 to 13 years. Children were categorized into four groups: participation in team sport, participation in individual sport, participation in team and individual sport, and no participation in sport. Mental health was assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist, a self-reported survey performed by parents or guardians.

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Hoffmann and colleagues found that compared with adolescents who did not participate in any sports, those who participated in team sports had 10% lower anxious/depressed scores, 19% lower withdrawn/depressed scores, 17% lower social problems scores, 17% lower thought problems scores and 12% lower attention problems scores. In comparison, adolescents who participated in individual sports had 16% higher anxious/depressed scores, 14% higher withdrawn/depressed scores, 12% higher social problems scores and 14% higher attention problems scores compared with those who did not participate in any sport.

According to the study, female participants in team sports or both team and individual sports had 20% and 17% lower rule-breaking behavior scores compared with male participants, respectively.

“Participation in sport may promote child and adolescent mental health because of the many fruitful opportunities to build social relationships and friendships, which can help foster a sense of belongingness within the athletic context,” researchers wrote in the study. “As reflected by parent reports, participation in exclusively team sport (compared to no sport participation) was associated with fewer mental health difficulties, whereas participation in exclusively individual sport (compared to no sport participation) was associated with greater mental health difficulties,” they concluded.