College Sports Could Raise Players' Risk for Depression, Study Finds

Compared with former college athletes, those still in school had doubled odds, possibly due to stress, researchers say

FRIDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) -- Current college athletes are twice as likely to be depressed as former athletes, researchers have found.

The findings suggest the need for further research to learn more about depression among college athletes, the Georgetown University investigators said.

For the study, they examined questionnaires completed by 117 current and 163 former college athletes who had participated in Division I NCAA-sponsored sports. The current athletes played in 10 different sports and the former athletes had played in 15 different sports.

Nearly 17 percent of current athletes had questionnaire scores consistent with depression, compared with 8 percent of former athletes, according to the study published online recently in the journal Sports Health.

"We expected to see a significant increase in depression once athletes graduated, but by comparison it appears the stress of intercollegiate athletics may be more significant than we and others anticipated," senior investigator Dr. Daniel Merenstein, an associate professor of family medicine and human science at Georgetown University Medical Center, said in a university news release.

These stressors include things such as overtraining, injury, pressure to perform, lack of free time, or trying to juggle athletics and schoolwork.

"College in general is a potentially stressful time for many students. The additional stress of playing high-level sports appears to add to that stress," Merenstein said.

He advised parents, friends and coaches to pay attention to changes in behavior, weight and sleep of college athletes, and of all students.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about college students and depression.

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