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Participation in team sports promotes mental health in adolescents


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Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial information.

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The results showed that adolescents who participate in team sports have fewer mental health problems compared to no sport participation, while those who participate in individual sports have more mental health problems.

Matt D. Hoffman, PhD, and colleagues analyzed data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, which included a sample of 11,235 US children ages 9 to 13. The children were divided into four groups: participating in team sports, participating in individual sports, participating in both team and individual sports, and not participating in sports. Mental health was assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist, a self-report completed by parents or guardians.

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Hoffmann and colleagues found that those who participated in team sports had 10% lower scores on anxiety/depression, 19% lower scores on withdrawal/depression, 17% lower scores on social problems, and 17% fewer thoughts had problems scores and 12% lower scores for attention problems. In comparison, adolescents who participated in individual sports had 16% higher scores for anxiety/depression, 14% higher scores for reclusiveness/depression, 12% higher scores for social problems, and 14% higher scores for attention problems compared to those who did not practiced sports.

According to the study, female participants in team sports or both team and individual sports had 20% and 17% lower scores for offending than male participants, respectively.

“Participation in sport can benefit children and adolescents’ mental health, as there are many fruitful opportunities to form social relationships and friendships that can help foster a sense of belonging in a sporting context,” the researchers write in the study. “As indicated by parent reports, participation in team sports only (compared to no sports participation) was associated with fewer mental health problems, while participation in individual sports only (compared to no sports participation) was associated with greater mental health problems,” they said closed.

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