A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health has demonstrated how adolescents who play team sports in their teenage years experience less stress and better mental health as young adults. The study surveyed 853 students from 10 Canadian schools about their participation in school sports, such as basketball, soccer, track and field, wrestling, and gymnastics. Three years after graduation, the same participants were surveyed about the amount of stress in their lives, how often they experienced depressive symptoms, and how they rated their mental health on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent).
The study found that involvement in school sport during adolescence was a statistically significant predictor of lower depression symptoms, lower perceived stress, and higher self-rated mental health in young adulthood. The researchers concluded that school sport participation may help to protect against poor mental health in early adulthood and that policies to increase school sport participation may be warranted as part of public health strategies to promote mental health.
One of the researchers noted “there is surprisingly little known about school sport, so we can only speculate as to the unique effects, but we suspect it might be due to school sport providing adolescents with opportunities to bond with other students, feel connected to their school, interact with their peers and coaches, thus, really providing a social and active environment”.