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Why Sports Are Good for Teen (Mental) Health

Why Sports Are Good for Teen (Mental) Health

Millions of children and teens enjoy participating in organized sports. In fact, the number might be considerably larger than you might suspect. A survey conducted by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) found that,in the year 2011 alone, 21.5 million children between the ages of 6 and 17 qualified as “regular/frequent” players of various sports. The physical benefits of sports are well-known; however, a recent report has determined that such activities might also ward off both stress and depression.

Appearing in the November 2014 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, this study was conducted by a group of Canadian researchers. The report featured authors from the University of Toronto, the University of Ottawa and the University of Montreal. To gauge how much team sports affected the mental well-being of teenagers, the research team enlisted 853 children enrolled in ten Canadian secondary schools. In this case, the participants were tracked through five years of secondary school.

The Impact of Sports

While tracking their subjects, the authors asked their students about their yearly participation in school sports, including those shown below:

  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Track and Field
  • Gymnastics
  • Wrestling

The researchers also documented the subjects’ mental health. A one to five rating scale was used to rate the students’ depression symptoms, mental health and levels of stress. A rating of “one” was considered poor. At the other end of the spectrum,  a “five” rating was used to denote an excellent score. This information was obtained from the subjects three years after they had completed secondary school.

In contrast to students who shunned them, adolescents who partook in school sports scored noticeably better in all of the aforementioned categories. Moreover, playing sports at a young age was associated with a reduced incidence of stress and depression symptoms, along with higher self-reported mental health scores.

Catherine M. Sabiston, a University of Toronto Faculty member and the study’s lead author, stressed that “It is important that school administrators recognize the importance of sport participation and physical activity. The associations we have found show a long term impact. School sport from ages 12 to 17 protects those youth from poor mental health four years later.”

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