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072 Promotion of para athlete well-being in South Africa (the PROPEL studies), part I: profiles and prevalence of psychological distress
  1. Marelise Badenhorst1,2,
  2. Phoebe Runciman1,2,3,
  3. James Craig Brown1,2,
  4. Wayne Derman1,2
  1. 1Institute of Sport and Exercise Medicine (ISEM), Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, Department of Surgical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
  2. 2International Olympic Committee (IOC) Research Centre, Cape Town, South Africa
  3. 3Department of Sport Science, Faculty of Education, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa


Background There is a paucity of research investigating the mental health profiles of para athletes globally, especially in South Africa.

Objective To describe the mental health profiles of a representative sample of para athletes in South Africa.

Design Descriptive, cross-sectional survey.

Setting National to international level athletes competing in the 2019 National Championships for athletes with impairments.

Patients (or Participants) A total of 124 athletes (93 males; 31 females) with a mean age 26.7 (±9.2).

Interventions (or Assessment of Risk Factors) Between-group differences were analysed using the Mann-Whitney U test or one-way ANOVA. On completion of the questionnaires, all athletes were given information about mental health support services.

Main Outcome Measurements Mental health was measured with the Trait component of the State/Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K-10).

Results The mean score for the STAI was 39.2 (±9.3) units. A quarter (25%) of all athletes scored 45 and above, in line with scores of patients with a psychological/psychiatric diagnosis. On average, females (35.9±8.7) had better STAI scores than males (40.3 ±9.3; p=0.02) and married (32.6±8.9) athletes had better scores than single (40.2±8.9; p=0.002) athletes. The mean K-10 questionnaire score was 20.4 (±6.4) units, with no gender difference. However, K-10 scores were significantly higher in single than in married athletes (U =415.5; p =0.002). Using a cut-off score of ≥28 and ≥16 on the K-10, 12.2% and 76.4% of athletes had symptoms of distress, respectively. Neither scale was associated with level of competition, sport code or impairment type. The K-10 and STAI scores were highly correlated (rs=0.64, p<0.001).

Conclusions The study found high rates of psychological distress among para athletes, which is an important first step towards the development of prevention strategies. There is a need to further understand and identify mechanisms affecting mental health in this population.

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