I RECEIVED an email a week ago with “Yet another reason sport is good for you!” in the title and I was expecting to see a few paragraphs on the health benefits of playing sport on a regular basis. But instead it was about the results of a study on the effects team sport had on mental issues. In a study done by Roy Morgan Research it was shown that the 1.35 million Australian adults who participate regularly in some kind of team sport are noticeably less likely than the average Aussie to experience depression, anxiety or stress. Between 2013 and 2014, 25% of Australians aged 18 and over reported experiencing stress at some point in the preceding 12 months, compared with 21% of those who regularly played a team sport. Some 16% suffered from anxiety, a figure which fell to 12% of regular team-sport players; and 14% had depression, considerably higher than the 8% of those who played regular team sport. This difference is most striking among the under-25 age group, with all three conditions being far less common among those who played team sport on a regular basis. Incidence of anxiety fell from 31% to 17%, depression from 17% to 8%, and anxiety from 20% to 10%. And having played team sport for more than three decades I don’t doubt the figures. I’ll put aside the fact I have won just the single premiership, in 2010, as part of a team that carried me for the year, and can say being part of cricket, Aussie rules, rugby league and union teams has provided some of the best times I have enjoyed.
But reading the report made me ask a question. What is it about sport that helps battle anxiety and depression? It might be due to the endorphin rush of high-impact exercise, the satisfaction of working towards a shared goal, the social support system that comes with being part of a team, or a combination of all these factors. From my point of view I don’t know the specific answer because those three factors are part of what draws me back to the footy field each year. What ever the answer is, the overall benefit of team sport on mental health is undeniable. Not everyone will agree with the findings, and if you do or do not, leave comments at news-mail.com.au.
From Facebook: Does playing team sports improve mental health? Yes. it sure it does. – Helen Dorron
Hahaha, to the contrary actually. In team sport if things don’t work out, there is a mob of different personalities to try to sort things out with, be it encouraging, blaming or admonishing and that’s eternally hard. Gets even harder if you’re the one everyone is blaming, would be quite depressing. In individual sport on the other hand, its different, at least you have control and I think that’s liberating.
This article first appeared News Mail, 26 March 2015.