Childhood sports can reduce depression risk

Playing in a positive sports environment could lessen the risk of a child experiencing depression, new research has suggested. Published in the journal Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology, the findings showed such participation can help young people better cope with various good and bad emotions.

Mary Fry, Associate Professor of Health, Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Kansas, noted kids enjoying a caring atmosphere when taking part in physical activities display improved empathy levels and can better regulate their feelings.

According to the investigation, youngsters involved in such scenarios endure fewer instances of depression and worry less about being judged, laughed at or the prospect of making mistakes.

Ms Fry stated: "When you're in an environment where you can't express your emotions, you tend to be more guarded. It just reinforces the important role teachers and coaches play."

In addition, a positive setting was found to make children less concerned about not being as physically talented as their peers.

Dr Helen O'Connor, a Chartered Psychologist, says: "Depression is often linked with fewer positive experiences, so encouraging children to participate in good situations can only help them develop helpful emotions.

"As depression and sadness are inactive emotions physical exercise confronts the feelings attached to these feelings by encouraging children to do an activity which is completely different to how they may feel. This is likely to foster happiness and reverse feelings of sadness just through the activity itself. Hearing positive comments from teachers and coaches is likely to boost self esteem and this in itself should help to decrease sadness levels."