Background In elite sport, mental health has become a topic of concern as athletes frequently appear to experience symptoms of anxiety/depression. Cricket is particularly demanding, given the globalisation and different formats of the game. To reduce anxiety/depression in professional cricketers, potential risk factors need to be identified.
Objectives Firstly, to determine the prevalence of anxiety/depression in South African professional cricketers. Secondly, determine whether factors such as education, family life, or career-related factors are associated with anxiety/depression.
Design A cross-sectional survey design using the General Health Questionnaire – a robust and reliable self-report measure for risk of anxiety/depression.
Participants All Professional South African Cricketers (n=177).
Assessment of Risk Factors Players’ career (e.g. main role in the team, level of cricket), family (e.g. marital status, whether they had children) and education (e.g. highest level of education, whether they were currently studying)
Main Outcome Measurements General Health Questionnaire 12 (GHQ) Score (ranging from 0–12). Anxiety/Depression prevalence (based on GHQ). Relative Risk Ratios (RR) for anxiety/depression based playing career, family and education.
Results The prevalence of anxiety/depression was 58%. The mean GHQ score for the sample was 3.6 (95% CI: 3.2–4.0). The likelihood of developing anxiety/depression increased when players were playing a higher level (RR: 7.3; 95% CI: 2.0–26.3; p < 0.01), contracted for more than 2 years (RR: 5.0; 95% CI: 1.2–21.3; p < 0.05) or if they played their last offseason overseas (RR: 3.5; 95% CI: 1.3–9.6; p < 0.05). The likelihood of developing anxiety/depression decreased when players made productive use of their spare time in the offseason (RR: 0.3; 95% CI: 0.1–0.9; p < 0.05) and were contracted for 2 years (RR: 0.3; 95% CI: 0.1–1.0; p < 0.05).
Conclusions The prevalence of symptoms of anxiety/depression in this cohort was higher than previously reported for elite athletes. Potential risk factors have been identified that can be used to design and develop strategies to reduce anxiety/depression in professional cricketers.