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"What is the score?” A review of football-based public mental health interventions

Friedrich, B; Mason, O; (2017) "What is the score?” A review of football-based public mental health interventions. Journal of Public Mental Health , 16 (4) pp. 144-154. 10.1108/JPMH-03-2017-0011. Green open access

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Abstract

PURPOSE: Football exercise as an intervention for people with severe mental health problems has seen an increasing interest in the past years. To date, there is, however, no comprehensive review of the empirical evidence regarding the effectiveness of these interventions. In this review, the authors have comprised the research findings from the peer-review literature as well as the theoretical approaches to football exercise as an adjunct treatment. This overview will be informative to everybody who is planning to develop a football intervention for this population as well as to the people who are preparing evaluation studies that measure the effectiveness of such interventions. The paper aims to discuss these issues. DESIGN/METHODOLOGY/APPROACH: The authors identified research papers in the peer-review literature that feature empirical findings on “football interventions” that aim at improving mental and/or physical well-being in participants with mental health problems. The authors are using the term “football intervention” here in the sense that the participants actively took part in football exercise, so the authors excluded studies in which the participants only watched football or used football as a metaphor to discuss mental health problems. In a table, the authors indicate the definition of the target group, targeted outcomes, measured outcomes, form and frequency of the intervention as well as the research method(s). FINDINGS: The authors identified 16 studies on 15 projects. The majority of studies were qualitative and had positive findings in which the participants reported increased well-being and connectedness, elevation of symptoms and improved physical well-being. The outcomes of the quantitative studies, however, were mixed with some results suggesting that not all intended goals were achieved. There seems to be a need for more quantitative studies to triangulate the qualitative findings. Interestingly, most interventions take place in the UK. Many studies fail to give detailed methodological information and often the aims of the interventions are vague or not stated at all. RESEARCH LIMITATIONS/IMPLICATIONS: Due to the heterogeneity of the studies and relative scarcity of evaluation projects on football interventions for people with mental health problems, the authors could not conduct an in-depth systematic review. Furthermore, the information on methods was often unsatisfying and despite efforts to get more detailed input from the authors of cited papers, those gaps could not always be filled. Instead of coming up with a crystal-clear summary of whether and how football interventions work for everybody, topics were identified that need to be addressed in the planning of interventions, in evaluation studies, in implementation efforts and in the theoretical discourse. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS: This paper constitutes a helpful overview for everybody who is interested in the theoretical background of football interventions for people with mental health problems, for people who are planning to develop respective interventions, for researchers who engage in evaluation projects that look into the effectiveness of football interventions (or similar exercise interventions) as well as for the people who are interested in how football interventions can be implemented. This paper is likely to make a contribution to the advancement of alternative exercise interventions that aim at improving mental, physical and social health in people with mental health problems. SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS: This paper will help putting the topic of football interventions (and similar, alternative exercise interventions) further up on the public health agenda by providing an overview of the empirical evidence at hand and by specifying advantages of the approach as well as pointing out actions that need to be taken to make football a recognised, evidence based and viable option for adjunct mental health treatment that is attractive to potential participants as well as funders as well as to the potential participants. ORIGINALITY/VALUE: There is no comprehensive summary to date that provides a (reasonably) systematic overview of empirical findings for football interventions for people with MH problems. Furthermore, the literature on the theoretical background of these interventions has been somewhat patchy and heterogonous. This paper aims at filling both these gaps and identifies the issues that need to be covered in the planning of respective interventions and evaluations. This paper will be useful to everybody who is developing football interventions (or similar alternative adjunct exercise interventions), who is conducting evaluation research in this area and who is interested in the implementation of football interventions.

Type: Article
Title: "What is the score?” A review of football-based public mental health interventions
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1108/JPMH-03-2017-0011
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1108/JPMH-03-2017-0011
Language: English
Additional information: © Bettina Friedrich and Oliver John Mason. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial & non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode
Keywords: Mental health, Inclusion, Evaluation, Football, Soccer, Physical activity
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Pop Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Pop Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Epidemiology and Public Health
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10039425
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