Depression in Student-Athletes: a Particularly At-Risk Group? A Systematic Review of the Literature

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Athletic Insight

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Mental health initiatives are being implemented based on collegiate athletes being a high risk subculture for a variety of health behaviors that correlate directly to depression. This literature review used the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) method to investigate the association between depression and student athletes. An initial search of the research databases yielded 807 articles. After applying additional delimiting criteria, 30 articles were considered relevant for the critical review and 11 for the systematic review. Results showed that student athletes are actually less likely to be depressed when compared to their non-athlete peers due to protective factors including levels of self-esteem and confidence, social support, and connectedness. However, there were distinct differences among collegiate athletes in how depression manifests and factors that serve as barriers to treatment. It is important for coaches, parents, teachers, peers, and those working with athletes to be able to recognize factors that may influence depression among this population as well as barriers that may instigate the adoption of risky health behaviors and inhibit them from seeking help.