Teens who played sports as children more likely to have better mental health
Engaging in both recreational and performance sports during childhood or early adolescence promotes better mental health during late adolescence, a recent study has found.
The study included 318 children (mean age, 10.2±0.6 years; 58.2 percent female) who were asked to report sport participation every 4 months for 5 years. The Mental Health Continuum–Short Form (MHC-SF) scale was used to evaluate mental health at age 15–16 years.
The percentage of participants who did not participate in any sport increased from 13.7 percent in the first year to 32.3 percent in the fourth year. This was followed by a decline to 26.7 percent by year 5. Participation in recreation sports dropped overall from 67.8 percent to 45.0 percent over 5 years, while engagement in performance sports rose from 18.6 percent to 27.7 percent in the same time period.
There was no significant sex difference in terms of mean years involved in sport, regardless of whether performance or recreational (girls vs boys: 3.71 vs 3.66 years; p=0.70), though girls tended to spend less time engaged in recreational sports (2.54 vs 2.71 years; p=0.04).
Multivariate linear regression analysis showed that spending more time engaged in sport was significantly predictive of better mental health later on. For instance, participants who spent 2 (β, 8.24, 95 percent CI, 0.33–16.17), 3 (β, 8.73, 0.76–16.70) and 4–5 (β, 10.18, 2.48–17.88) years participating in recreational sports had better mental health relative to those without a recreational profile.
The same was true for those with 1 (β, 6.27, 1.40–11.14), 2 (β, 6.89, 0.93–12.86), 3 (β, 10.78, 2.89–18.69) and 4–5 (β, 19.50, 9.53–29.48) years of performance sports.