Prevalence of and risk factors associated with symptoms of depression in competitive collegiate student athletes

Clin J Sport Med. 2007 Nov;17(6):481-7. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31815aed6b.


Objective: To describe the prevalence of symptoms of depression among competitive collegiate student athletes and examine the factors associated with symptoms of depression among this population.

Design: A baseline survey of a prospective cohort study.

Setting: The survey was administered at the preseason team meetings.

Participants: The sample included 257 collegiate student athletes (167 males and 90 females) who participated in Division I National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)-sponsored sports during the 2005-2006 academic year.

Main outcome measurements: Symptoms of depression were measured by the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CESD). Anxiety was measured by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). The Generalized Estimating Equations (GEE) was used to assess the factors associated with symptoms of depression.

Results: Twenty-one percent of participants reported experiencing symptoms of depression. Athletes who were female, freshmen, or with self-reported pain were associated with significantly increased odds of experiencing symptoms of depression after adjusting for sports and other covariates. In particular, female athletes had 1.32 greater odds (95% CI, 1.01 to 1.73) of experiencing symptoms of depression compared to male student athletes. Freshmen had 3.27 greater odds (95% CI, 1.63 to 6.59) of experiencing symptoms of depression than their more senior counterparts. Student athletes who reported symptoms of depression were associated with higher scores of State-Anxiety and Trait-Anxiety, respectively (P<0.0001).

Conclusions: Our findings provide empirical data for the future study on mental health among collegiate athletes. Further studies on why female and freshmen athletes are at increased risk of experiencing symptoms of depression are also warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Competitive Behavior*
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sports / psychology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Universities