Susceptibility for depression in current and retired student athletes

Sports Health. 2013 May;5(3):263-6. doi: 10.1177/1941738113480464.


Background: Depression, a disabling mental disorder, adversely affects work, sleeping and eating habits, and family. Research does not exist on depression among athletes who have recently graduated from college and retired from their sport after exhausting their collegiate eligibility.

Hypothesis: Changes in lifestyle and loss of personal identity, which follow college athletics, would put former college athletes at an increased risk for depression.

Methods: A survey was sent to former (n = 163) and current (n = 117) college athletes to correlate depression and retirement from athletics.

Results: Depression levels were significantly higher (P = 0.03) in current college athletes (16.77%, n = 27) compared with former, graduated college athletes (8.03%, n = 9).

Conclusion: Completion of college sports may not increase levels of depression. There is a need for increased awareness, education, screening, and intervention for depression in college athletes.

Clinical relevance: This study suggests that student athletes' depression levels should be monitored during their participation in college sports.

Keywords: athlete; depression; retirement; sports; students.