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Br J Sports Med. 2019 Jun;53(11):700-706. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2019-100671.

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

Author information

1
Amsterdam UMC, Univ of Amsterdam, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Amsterdam Movement Sciences, Meibergdreef 9, Amsterdam, The Netherlands v.gouttebarge@amsterdamumc.nl.
2
Amsterdam Collaboration on Health & Safety in Sports (ACHSS), AMC/VUmc IOC Research Center of Excellence, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
3
Department of Neuroscience, Medical School, Fundação do ABC, Santo André, Brazil.
4
Department of Psychiatry, Medical School, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.
5
Sport and Exercise Science, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK.
6
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.
7
Ebling Library for the Health Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
8
Amsterdam UMC, Univ of Amsterdam, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Amsterdam Movement Sciences, Meibergdreef 9, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
9
Amsterdam Center for Evidence-based Sports Medicine, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
10
Research and Translation, Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
11
Centre for Youth Mental Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
12
Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
13
University Health Services, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

To present an overview of the existing epidemiological evidence regarding the occurrence 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 were written in English, were conducted exclusively among current or former elite athletes, and 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 2895 to 5555 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 1579 to 1686 former elite athletes showed that the prevalence of mental health symptoms and disorders ranged from 16% for distress to 26% for anxiety/depression.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our meta-analyses showed that 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.

KEYWORDS:

anxiety; depression; mental; sleep

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