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The prevalence of common mental health problems and associated psychosocial issues in elite swimmers

Howarth, Harrison; Evans, Guy; Kruger, Pieter; Dilkes, Evie; Bell, Gary; Kipps, Courtney; (2023) The prevalence of common mental health problems and associated psychosocial issues in elite swimmers. Sports Psychiatry 10.1024/2674-0052/a000035. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Introduction: The mental health of elite athletes has been recognised as of great importance. There have been relatively few studies examining the prevalence of mental health problems in swimmers. None have commented on the range of psychosocial problems associated with mental ill-health. The aim of this study was to identify the prevalence of common mental health problems and psychosocial problems in elite swimmers. Methods: The study was conducted on a national swimming squad competing at the international level. All athletes (n=55) were invited to participate. The response rate was 63.3% (n=36). The study was cross-sectional in design. Data was collected using a battery of psychometric tests yielding information on distress (The Distress Screener), anxiety and depression (PHQ-9, K10), sleep disturbance (PROMIS scale), alcohol consumption (AUDIT-C), smoking behaviour, adverse nutrition behaviour, career satisfaction (Career Satisfaction Scale) and mental toughness (Mental Toughness Index). Results: The prevalence of depression was 14% (n=5). Six percent (n=2) reported suicidal ideation in the last 2 weeks. Fourteen percent met criteria for distress. There were positive correlations between depression and sleep disturbance ( r=.343, p<.05), between anxiety/depression and distress ( r=.380, p<.05), and between depression and distress ( r=.531, p<.01). Career dissatisfaction was identified in 46% of participants and was inversely correlated with mental toughness ( r=.485, p<.01). Low mental toughness and adverse alcohol use were identified in 37% and 23% of participants, respectively. Conclusions: Elite swimmers experience common mental illnesses and associated psychosocial problems. There is a relationship between career dissatisfaction and low mental toughness. Sport governing bodies should assess their own athlete populations and implement programmes to support mental health.

Type: Article
Title: The prevalence of common mental health problems and associated psychosocial issues in elite swimmers
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1024/2674-0052/a000035
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1024/2674-0052/a000035
Language: English
Additional information: � 2023 The Author(s). Distributed as a Hogrefe OpenMind article under the license CC BY 4.0 ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)
UCL classification: UCL
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 Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Surgery and Interventional Sci
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Surgery and Interventional Sci > Department of Targeted Intervention
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10164422
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