team sports teenagers

A new study has shown that consistently taking part in school team sports protects against poor mental health in early adulthood.

Rise in Teenage depression

Teenage depression levels are worrying. In the USA 2.8 million 12-17 year olds had at least one depressive episode in their previous year. That works out at 11.4 % of the age group. In the UK the figure stands at 1.4% of 11-16 year olds - that’s 62,000 teens with depression.

The teen age group has its own particular set of stresses and some teens are more prone to feel their effects. This includes but isn’t limited to:

  • Issues with self esteem, peer problems, bullying or academic worries.
  • Witnessing or being the victim of violence - including sexual abuse
  • Personality traits like pessimism or self criticism
  • Abusing drugs, nicotine and alcohol
  • Lack of support with being gay, bisexual or transgender
  • Dysfunctional family or family conflicts including divorce

Some teens may have a family history of depression. A parent, grandparent, or blood relation with alcoholism, bi-polar or depression issues can contribute to teens developing depression.

What Are The Symptoms?

A major depressive episode is described as a period of at least two weeks when they have depressed mood, loss of interest in pleasure, and at least four of the following:

Problems with:

⇒ Sleeping

⇒ Eating

⇒ Energy levels

⇒ Concentration

⇒ Self image

And the outcome?

When depression is untreated it can lead to serious problems with emotions, behaviour and health. For example, alcohol and drug abuse, a poor academic record, involvement with authority and suicide can result from teen depression.

Previous studies have shown exercise helps

Some previous studies have shown that exercise can benefit depression.

Randomized controlled trials have measured depression levels before and after exercise intervention and discovered its benefits. For example, a study by Dunn et al called ‘Exercise treatment for depression: efficacy and dose response’ took 80 adults aged 20-45 with mild to moderate depression and assigned them to exercise groups that lasted 12 weeks. They found that exercise was an effective treatment for their depression.

Another similar study monitored exercise as a treatment for 2322 heart failure patients and found the exercise group had statistically significant reductions in depression scores compared to the control group who undertook no supervised exercise.

What was the new study?

Looking specifically at teen depression a new study called ‘Number of Years of Team and Individual Sport Participation During Adolescence and Depressive Symptoms in Early Adulthood’ found that school sport participation can defend against depression in early adulthood.

The study wanted to find out whether the amount of years spent playing teams sports at school had an effect on later mental health - specifically depression in early adulthood. It looked at 853 adolescents throughout five years of secondary school and then the rates of reported depressive symptoms, stress level and self-rated mental health three years after secondary school.

It found that consistently taking part in team sports at school was a statistically significant predictor of lower depression symptoms in early adulthood.

Researchers concluded that school sports participation protects against poor mental health, and that policies to increase participation in team sports at school should be promoted as a public health strategy - but further studies are needed to understand why this is the case.

Our teens are struggling with depression so this study is important. The promotion of healthy living is a vital factor for health considerations such as weight management to prevent diabetes and heart disease, and now there’s evidence it prevents depression too.

Sports are the way forward. Lock up that X-box!

More on Teenage health problems:

CBT for teenage internet addiction

Teenage depression – can you spot it?

Schroth exercise therapy improves pulmonary function in adolescents with scoliosis.

Off to Uni Health Kit

More on Exercise Therapy:

Water exercise for better sleep and lower blood pressure

Exercise reduces alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Creative Therapies, Exercise Rehabilitation and CBT can help with Smartphone Addiction


Sabiston et al. Number of Years of Team and Individual Sport Participation During Adolescence and Depressive Symptoms in Early Adulthood. J Sport Exerc Psychol. Feb 2016

Image © Stanislav Komogorov |


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