Last week, British psychologist, Professor Juergen Beckmann and his team, presented their evidence suggesting that individual athletes are more prone to developing depressive symptoms than those participating in team sports. Depression affects more than 15 million American adults, and psychologists are going to great lengths to identify the root of every issue.
Burnout and Depression
In his research of burnout and depression, Professor Beckmann surveyed 162 elite and 199 junior elite athletes in two cross-sectional studies. The team also conducted a longitudinal study of 85 junior athletes, surveying each group three times over the course of a year.
The three studies were complemented by a qualitative study, in which 134 athletes were interviews about perceived causes of the stress they experienced and depressive symptoms.
The two cross-sectional studies found that sport specific stress, combined with insufficient time for recovery, was associated with symptoms of depression. The results also showed that athletes in individual sports, such as Track & Field, showed significantly higher scores for depressive symptoms than athletes in team sports, such as soccer.
The study also found that dysfunctional attitudes in athletes and a resigned coping style both predicted higher rates of depressive symptoms and subsequently burnout.
Lack of Recovery Time
The depression found in the study was directly linked to each athlete’s lack of recovery time from stress caused by injury or other factors.
Individual and personal sports create a high-pressure environment that focuses on winning and achieving progress. Setbacks, whether because of stress or an injury, challenge an athlete’s self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. This contributes to the development of depression.
What Can Be Done?
It’s important for athletes and coaches alike to become educated on the prevention and treatment of depression. Familiarizing coaches, athletes and athletic staff with symptoms of depression will help identify athletes struggling with the mental health condition.
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