Occurrence of mental health symptoms and disorders in current and former elite athletes: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Vincent Gouttebarge, Joao Mauricio Castaldelli-Maia, Paul Gorczynski, Brian Hainline, Mary E. Hitchcock, Gino Kerkhoffs, Simon Rice, Claudia L. Reardon

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Abstract

Objectives: To report the epidemiology of mental health symptoms and disorders among current and former elite athletes.

Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Data sources: Five electronic databases were searched from inception to November 2018: PubMed (MEDLINE), SportDiscus via EBSCO, PSycINFO via ProQuest, Scopus, and Cochrane.

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies: We included original quantitative studies that (i) were written in English, (ii) were conducted exclusively among current or former elite athletes, and (ii) presented incidence or prevalence rates of symptoms of mental disorders.

Results: Twenty-two relevant original studies about mental health symptoms and disorders among current elite athletes were included; they presented data especially on symptoms of distress, sleep disturbance, anxiety/depression, and alcohol misuse. Meta-analyses comprising 2,895 to 5,555 current elite athletes showed that the prevalence of mental health symptoms and disorders ranged from 19% for alcohol misuse to 34% for anxiety/depression. Fifteen relevant original studies about mental health symptoms and disorders among former elite athletes were included; they similarly presented data especially about symptoms of distress, sleep disturbance, anxiety/depression and alcohol misuse. Meta-analyses comprising 1,579 to 1,686 former elite athletes showed that the prevalence of mental health symptoms and disorders ranged from 16% for distress to 26% for anxiety/depression.

Conclusions: Using meta-analyses, the prevalence of mental health symptoms and disorders ranged from 19% for alcohol misuse to 34% for anxiety/depression for current elite athletes, and from 16% for distress to 26% for anxiety/depression for former elite athletes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)700-706
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Sports Medicine
Volume53
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2019

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