12 December 2016
Athletes in individual sports are more prone to developing depressive symptoms than athletes in team sports.
That is one of the findings being presented today to the annual conference of our Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology in Cardiff by Professor Juergen Beckmann from the Technical University of Munich.
In his research on burnout and depression, Professor Beckmann and his team surveyed 162 elite and 199 junior elite athletes in two cross-sectional studies. They also conducted a longitudinal study of 85 junior athletes, surveying them three times over the course of a year.
These three studies were complemented by a qualitative study, in which 134 elite athletes were interviewed about perceived causes of their experienced stress, drop-out intentions 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. They also found that athletes in individual sports showed significantly higher scores for depressive symptoms than athletes in team sports.
The longitudinal study found that dysfunctional attitudes in athletes and a resigned coping style both predicted higher rates of depressive symptoms and burnout.
Although burnout and depression were significantly correlated, perfectionism and chronic stress predicted burnout but not depression. Depression was linked with a lack of time to recover from stress.
Professor Beckmann says:
“Our research suggests that depression is particularly high in young athletes, with athletes in individual sports being more vulnerable. In Germany, we have developed a burnout and screening instrument for junior athletes and a website to give them advice on coping with stress and other psychological problems they may experience.”