Depressive symptoms in high-performance athletes and non-athletes: a comparative meta-analysis

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Abstract

Objective

To assess whether a difference exists in the prevalence of mild or more severe depressive symptoms between high-performance athletes and non-athletes.

Design

Comparative OR meta-analysis.

Data sources

We searched PsycINFO, PubMed, MEDLINE, CINAHL, SPORTDiscus and Google Scholar, as well as the reference lists of reviews of mental health issues in high-performance athletes.

Eligibility

We included studies that compared high-performance athletes and non-athletes, included a validated measure of depressive symptoms and included the prevalence of individuals who indicated at least mild depressive symptoms.

Results

Five articles reporting data from 1545 high-performance athletes and 1811 non-athletes were examined. A comparative OR meta-analysis found high-performance athletes were no more likely than non-athletes to report mild or more severe depressive symptoms (OR=1.15, 95% CI=0.954 to 1.383, p=0.145). Male high-performance athletes (n=940) were no more likely than male non-athletes (n=605) to report mild or more severe depressive symptoms (OR=1.17, 95% CI=0.839 to 1.616, p=0.362). For females, high-performance athletes (n=948) were no more likely than non-athletes (n=605) to report mild or more severe depressive symptoms (OR=1.11, 95% CI=0.846 to 1.442, p=0.464). Overall, male high-performance athletes (n=874) were 52% less likely to report mild or more severe depressive symptoms than female high-performance athletes (n=705) (OR=0.48, 95% CI=0.369 to 0.621, p<0.001).

Summary/conclusions

High-performance athletes were just as likely as non-athletes to report depressive symptoms. Researchers need to move beyond self-report measures of depressive symptoms and examine the prevalence of clinically diagnosed depressive disorders in athletes.

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