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The prevalence of Mental Health Problems in elite athletes
Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, GIH, Department of Sport and Health Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2952-0347
Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, GIH, Department of Sport and Health Sciences, Sport Psychology research group.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9921-6586
Karolinska Institutet.
Karolinska Institutet.
2019 (English)In: Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, ISSN 1440-2440, E-ISSN 1878-1861Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Objectives

The first aim was to examine mental health problems (MHP) in elite athletes addressing prevalence, sex-differences, onset, recurrent episodes, help-seeking, symptoms of specific disorders and previous psychiatric diagnoses. The second aim was to investigate if sport-specific instruments could indicate clinical levels of psychiatric symptoms.

Design

Cross-sectional survey.

Methods

Elite athletes (representing different Swedish national teams and applying for a university scholarship (n = 333) answered a web-based survey. Females represented 58.9%. Mean age was 24.6(±3.1) years and 77.2% were individual-and 22.8% team-sport athletes.

Results

Lifetime prevalence of MHP was 51.7% (females 58.2%, males 42.3%). Point prevalence was 11.7% (females 13.8%, males 8.8%). Onset of first MHP episode peaked at age 19 with 50% of onsets between ages 17–21. Recurrent episodes were common, and females sought help more than males (females 37.8%, males 16.8%). Overall 19.5% reached the clinical cut-offs for symptoms of anxiety and/or depression (females 26.0%, males 10.2%). Previous psychiatric diagnoses existed among 8.1% (females 10.7%, males 4.4%). A depressive disorder, an eating disorder or a trauma and stress related disorder (self-reported as burnout) were most common. Finally, most sport-specific instruments (80%) demonstrated a fair diagnostic accuracy compared to clinically validated instruments.

Conclusions

Lifetime prevalence of MHP was reported by more than half of the athletes. Symptoms manifested in young age and recurrent episodes were common. Sport-specific instruments indicating when symptoms reach clinical levels are potentially useful for data summary purposes on a group level, but without sufficiently high sensitivity and specificity to be recommend for applied work with athletes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2019.
Keywords [en]
Psychiatric disorders, Help seeking, Onset, Measurement
National Category
Sport and Fitness Sciences Psychology
Research subject
Social Sciences/Humanities
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:gih:diva-5910DOI: 10.1016/j.jsams.2019.10.022OAI: oai:DiVA.org:gih-5910DiVA, id: diva2:1369187
Available from: 2019-11-11 Created: 2019-11-11 Last updated: 2019-11-18Bibliographically approved

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Åkesdotter, CeciliaKenttä, Göran

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