Study: Mental Health Issues On Minds of NCAA Athletes

As a follow-up to two NCAA student-athlete well-being studies conducted in 2020, student-athletes continue to report elevated levels of mental health concerns.

The data indicated rates of mental exhaustion, anxiety, and depression have seen little change since fall 2020 and remain 1.5 to two times higher than identified before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, student-athletes reported lower levels of hopelessness in fall 2021 than in the first year of the pandemic.

councilThe Association-wide survey, which was open from Nov. 17-Dec. 13, had responses from over 9,800 student-athletes. It was designed by NCAA research in collaboration with the NCAA Sport Science Institute and the Division I, II and III Student-Athlete Advisory Committees.

This study did not measure student-athlete responses relative to the overall college student population, which is dealing with these mental health issues, as well.

When responding to mental health support questions, 69% of women’s sports participants and 63% of men’s sports participants agreed or strongly agreed that they know where to go on campus if they have mental health concerns. But when asked if they would feel comfortable seeking support from a mental health provider on campus, less than half of women’s sports and men’s sports participants answered that they would agree or strongly agree with that statement (48% and 46%, respectively).

Mental Health Concerns

Sixteen percent of the women’s sports participants said they felt very lonely constantly or almost every day, a drop of 5 percentage points from the fall 2020 survey. Ten percent of women’s sports respondents reported feeling things were hopeless, compared with 16% who responded that way in the previous survey.

Thirty-eight percent of those in women’s sports and 22% of the men’s sports participants reported feeling mentally exhausted constantly or most every day, the most common concern reported.

Factors Regarding Transferring

Since the Division I governance structure changed the one-time exception transfer rules to include baseball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s ice hockey before the 2021-22 academic year, transfers have become a hotter topic with media and fans.

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Eight percent of all student-athlete respondents indicated that it was likely they would transfer at some point during the 2021-22 academic year.

Mental health (61% women’s sports participants, 40% men’s sports participants), conflict with a coach or teammates (56% women’s sports participants, 34% men’s sports participants) and playing time (34% women’s sports participants, 36% men’s sports participants) were the most cited reasons for contemplating transfers, among those considering doing so at some point in the year.

To read the full press release from the NCAA, click here