Living through the COVID-19 pandemic has been proven to have psychological impacts among individuals in both sport and non-sport populations. However, there is little available research comparing athlete and non-athlete populations in this context, especially among a non-western sample. This study employs a novel, longitudinal mixed method sequential explanatory research design to compare the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic between athlete and non-athlete populations and the role of physical activity. Phase A was a quantitative study measuring the psychological impact using the Impact of Event Scale-Revised among both groups (n = 32). Phase B was a qualitative study, with a sample (n = 7) participating in experiential interviews, exploring the lived experiences of participants over a 7-month period since Phase A was completed. Results indicated that athletes had lower psychological impact of the pandemic compared to non-athletes. Reflexive thematic analysis indicated that over the 7-month longitudinal period, athletes and non-athletes had different experiences across the themes of ‘Appraisal and Coping’, ‘Cognitions’, and ‘Impact of the Pandemic’. Findings show A) a clear longitudinal impact of COVID-19 over a 7-month period; B) there is a clear contrast between sport and non-sport populations, with participants indicating sport and physical activity to be a protective factor limiting negative psychological impact. Findings are discussed with recommendations for physical activity and sport for reducing psychological impact among both athletes and non-athletes.
- mental health
- mixed method