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Front Psychol. 2018 May 8;9:707. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00707. eCollection 2018.

Associations Between Motivation and Mental Health in Sport: A Test of the Hierarchical Model of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation.

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Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.
Health Research Institute, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.


Motivation has been the subject of much research in the sport psychology literature, whereas athlete mental health has received limited attention. Motivational complexities in elite sport are somewhat reflected in the mental health literature, where there is evidence for both protective and risk factors for athletes. Notably, few studies have linked motivation to mental health. Therefore, the key objective of this study was to test four mental health outcomes in the motivational sequence posited by the Hierarchical Model of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: motivational climate → basic psychological needs → motivation → mental health outcomes. Elite team-sport athletes (140 females, 75 males) completed seven psychometric inventories of motivation-related and mental health variables. Overall, the athletes reported positive motivational patterns, with autonomous motivation and task climate being more prevalent than their less adaptive counterparts. Elevated depressive symptoms and poor sleep quality affected nearly half of the cohort. Structural equation modeling supported pathways between motivational climate, basic needs, motivation, and mood, depressive symptoms, sleep quality, and trait anxiety. Specifically, a task climate was positively associated with the three basic psychological needs, and an ego climate was positively associated with competence. Autonomy and relatedness had positive and negative associations with autonomous and controlled forms of motivation, respectively. Controlled motivation regulations were positively associated with the four mental health outcomes. Integrated regulation had a negative association with anxiety, and intrinsic regulation had a positive association with depressive symptoms. These findings highlight the complexities of and interrelations between motivation and mental health among athletes, and support the importance of considering mental health as an outcome of motivation.


depression; modeling; motivation; psychology; quantitative study; self-determination theory; team sport

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