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Depressive symptoms in high-performance athletes and non-athletes: a comparative meta-analysis
  1. Paul Filip Gorczynski1,
  2. Melissa Coyle2,
  3. Kass Gibson2
  1. 1 Department of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK
  2. 2 Physical and Coach Education Department, University of St Mark and St John, Plymouth, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Paul Filip Gorczynski, Department of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Portsmouth, Spinnaker Building, Cambridge Road, Portsmouth PO12ER, UK; paul.gorczynski{at}port.ac.uk

Abstract

Objective To assess whether a difference exists in the prevalence of mild or more severe depressive symptoms between high-performance athletes and non-athletes.

Design Comparative OR meta-analysis.

Data sources We searched PsycINFO, PubMed, MEDLINE, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus and Google Scholar, as well as the reference lists of reviews of mental health issues in high-performance athletes.

Eligibility We included studies that compared high-performance athletes and non-athletes, included a validated measure of depressive symptoms and included the prevalence of individuals who indicated at least mild depressive symptoms.

Results Five articles reporting data from 1545 high-performance athletes and 1811 non-athletes were examined. A comparative OR meta-analysis found high-performance athletes were no more likely than non-athletes to report mild or more severe depressive symptoms (OR=1.15, 95% CI=0.954 to 1.383, p=0.145). Male high-performance athletes (n=940) were no more likely than male non-athletes (n=605) to report mild or more severe depressive symptoms (OR=1.17, 95% CI=0.839 to 1.616, p=0.362). For females, high-performance athletes (n=948) were no more likely than non-athletes (n=605) to report mild or more severe depressive symptoms (OR=1.11, 95% CI=0.846 to 1.442, p=0.464). Overall, male high-performance athletes (n=874) were 52% less likely to report mild or more severe depressive symptoms than female high-performance athletes (n=705) (OR=0.48, 95% CI=0.369 to 0.621, p<0.001).

Summary/conclusions High-performance athletes were just as likely as non-athletes to report depressive symptoms. Researchers need to move beyond self-report measures of depressive symptoms and examine the prevalence of clinically diagnosed depressive disorders in athletes.

  • mental health
  • depressive symptoms
  • elite athletes
  • meta-analysis

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Footnotes

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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