College athletes twice as likely to have depression than retired collegiate athletes

April 2, 2013, Georgetown University Medical Center

A survey of current and former college athletes finds depression levels significantly higher in current athletes, a result that upended the researchers' hypothesis. The finding published in Sports Health suggests the need for more research to understand depression among college athletes.

"We expected to see a significant increase in depression once athletes graduated, but by comparison it appears the of intercollegiate athletics may be more significant than we and others anticipated," says the study's senior investigator Daniel Merenstein, MD, an associate professor of family medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine and in the department of human science in the School of Nursing & Health Studies.

While no research exists on depression in athletes who have recently graduated from college, the researchers hypothesized that the changes in lifestyle and loss of personal identity would put former college athletes at an increased risk for depression.

"College athletes often derive their personal identity from their sport, focusing a lot of their time on athletics in college," the study authors write. "They are often surrounded by other athletes and frequently have an athletic identity from their peers who recognize them on campus as an athlete."

The authors also point out that after college athletics, there is a loss of social support from teammates, coaches and advisors, and that former athletes may not maintain peak physical condition—all possible factors for depression.

To examine their , the researchers sent surveys to 663 athletes; 163 former and 117 current athletes from nine different universities took part in the study. All had participated in Division I NCAA sponsored sports. Graduated athletes represented 15 different sports and current athletes represented 10.

The analysis of the surveys revealed that nearly 17 percent of current college athletes had scores consistent with depression—double that of retired college athletes (eight percent).

Merenstein, a physician, and his colleagues suggest that stressors experienced by college athletes such as overtraining, injury, pressure to perform, lack of free time or stress from schoolwork could contribute to increased susceptibility to depression.

"College in general is a potentially stressful time for many students. The additional stress of playing high-level sports appears to add to that stress," he says.

Merenstein advises parents, friends and coaches to be aware of changes in behavior, weight and sleep of , and of all students.

Explore further: Study finds head impacts in contact sports may reduce learning in college athletes

Related Stories

Study finds head impacts in contact sports may reduce learning in college athletes

May 16, 2012
A new study suggests that head impacts experienced during contact sports such as football and hockey may worsen some college athletes' ability to acquire new information. The research is published in the May 16, 2012, online ...

Athletes may have different reasons for marijuana use

July 11, 2011
College athletes tend to be less likely than their non-athlete peers to smoke marijuana. But when they do, they may have some different reasons for it, according to a study in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol ...

High school athletes take lead from coaches in reporting concussive symptoms, study finds

January 17, 2013
In a recent study, UW researchers sought to understand why high school athletes do not report concussive symptoms. The researchers conducted focus groups with 50 male and female Seattle-area varsity athletes from a variety ...

Female college athletes need better screening for health problems, researchers report

June 6, 2012
Female athletes, particularly those involved in high level college sports at the NCAA Division I level, are particularly prone to a trio of medical issues called the "female athlete triad." A new study conducted by sports ...

Female and younger athletes take longer to overcome concussions

May 8, 2012
New research out of Michigan State University reveals female athletes and younger athletes take longer to recover from concussions, findings that call for physicians and athletic trainers to take sex and age into account ...

Newly recognized feature of athlete's heart found to be more prevalent in black male athletes

April 19, 2012
Left-ventricular hyper-trabeculation (LVHT) – a feature of certain cardiomyopathies (chronic disease of the heart muscle) – has been found to be more common in black, male athletes according to a new study presented ...

Recommended for you

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.