UW Study: Depression Increasing Among HS Athletes

July 1, 2020 / Sports Medicine
A collaborative study between the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison has yielded statistics showing a correlation between a student-athlete’s mental health and the moratorium on athletic activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study showed that 68 percent of student-athletes polled said they have experienced at least mild depression symptoms — a spike from the historical number of 31 percent of athletes from UW’s School of Medicine and Public Health.

Photo: Jeremy Polanski / Creative Commons

The WIAA released the results to Wisconsin school districts this week, according to an article from WQOW News18.

A similar number of student-athletes questioned (65 percent) reported symptoms of anxiety since being unable to participate in organized sports. Forty percent said the anxious feelings were mild while 25 percent noted the symptoms were moderate or severe.

The study also showed a decrease of 50 percent in physical activity among student-athletes during the pandemic. Physical activity has had a known beneficial effect on a wide range of health outcomes for student-athletes, with exercise and organized sports being a powerful antidepressant.

Participants included 3,243 adolescent-aged athletes in Wisconsin — 58 percent of whom identified as a female with an average age of 16-17 from 72 counties in May 2020.

“COVID-19 related school closures in Wisconsin are associated with worsening mental health, physical activity, and health-related quality of life,” Dr. Timothy McGuine, co-author of the study, reported. “The negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on anxiety or depression are likely going to be perpetuated by continued lower rates of exercise and organized sports opportunities.”

The report also called back to previous studies which demonstrated that prolonged quarantines can negatively impact mental health. Additionally, it noted the important role schools play in providing access to mental health services, particularly in reference to disadvantaged students.

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Currently, WIAA schools can resume summer sports participation as of July 1, there are different risk levels depending on the region of the school and the sport.

To read the full story WQOQ News 18 on the WIAA and UW’s study on the mental health of student-athletes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, click here