Kids who play team sports have fewer mental health problems: New study


There is emerging evidence that playing a team sport, for children, is somewhat protective against anxiety, depression, social withdrawal and attention problems.

Overall, children who play team sports are less likely to have mental health problems than children who do not play sports.

The results are supported by previous studies.

However, the large-scale survey by sports psychologists at California State University also found that children who exclusively engage in an individual sport – such as tennis, dancing, cycling or wrestling – were more likely to have mental health problems than children who did not play sports. at all.

The study prompted Smithsonian Magazine ask the question: should parents of young tennis players be concerned about these discoveries?

The article starts out a bit provocatively, with a quote from the great Andre Agassi who says he would have liked to play football instead of tennis as a child:

“I play three times a week at school and I love running on the soccer field with the wind in my hair, calling the ball, knowing the world won’t end if I don’t score. The fate of my father, of my family, of planet earth, does not rest on my shoulders. If my team doesn’t win, it will be the whole team’s fault and no one will shout in my ear. Team sports, I decide, are the way to go.

The lead author of the new study, Dr. Matt Hoffman, an assistant professor in Cal State’s Department of Kinesiology, did not get into the deeper meaning of his findings, but suggested that instead of panicking, parents and coaches should “be aware that young wrestlers, dancers or swimmers might experience additional stress or anxiety and support them accordingly”.

It’s a good idea. But how many young André Agassis are there with an excessively pushy parent on their backs?

Big problem.

The study

The researchers analyzed data on the sports habits and mental health of 11,235 children aged 9 to 13.

Parents and guardians reported on several aspects of children’s mental health by completing a form known as the Child Behavior Checklista commonly used tool by which parents identify and describe emotional and behavioral problems and skills.

Researchers identified “associations between mental health data and children’s exercise habits, while controlling for other factors that may impact mental health, such as household income and activity global physics.

Dr. Hoffman and his colleagues say the positive results from team sports were “in line” with their expectations. This is not surprising given that there are a good number of previous studies supporting these results.

A big study 2019 from the Department of Pediatrics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, found that playing team sports can actually help children stave off depression.

The study also found that people exposed to negative childhood experiences reported better mental health as adults, if they had participated in team sports as children.

Researchers caught off guard

But the researchers were surprised by expectations that individual sports would be “associated with fewer mental health problems, albeit to a lesser extent than team sports”.

Instead, they found that children who exclusively played individual sports tended to have greater mental health problems than those who did not play sports at all.

The Smithsonian The article included an independent analysis by Professor Catherine Sabiston, a sports psychologist at the University of Toronto.

She told the Smithsonian that she wasn’t surprised by the findings about individual sports:

“Individual sports tend to be judgement-based, weight-focused, often appearance-enhancing sports that build social comparison, competitiveness and individual effort.

“There is no one to ‘blame’ or ‘thank’ other than yourself, and the pressure to perform is heightened.”

This is precisely what André Agassi said.


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