Objective: To assess the prevalence of symptoms of depression, anxiety, and rates of alcohol misuse in elite rugby league players in Australasia.
Design: A cross-sectional, epidemiological study with repeated measures.
Setting: Surveys were conducted during the 2015 preseason and in-season.
Participants: Four hundred four elite rugby league players participated preseason and 278 players in-season.
Main outcome measures: Symptoms of depression were measured using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 scale, symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) with the GAD-7 scale, and the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test Consumption scale was used to assess hazardous alcohol use.
Results: The overall prevalence of depression was 12.6% preseason and 10.1% in-season. Generalized anxiety disorder had a prevalence of 14.6% and 10.1% for these 2 periods. Overall, 68.6% of players had hazardous levels of alcohol use preseason, and 62.8% in-season. There was no significant difference for any of the main outcomes between the periods. Players with a history of mental illnesses had 5.62 greater odds (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.62-12.04) of depression than those without during preseason, and 22.08 greater odds (95% CI, 7.77-62.71) in-season. Players reporting ≥3 previous concussions had 2.02 greater odds (95% CI, 1.07-3.82) of depression than those reporting ≤2 in the preseason sample.
Conclusions: Rugby league players have a lower prevalence of depression compared with studies of the general population and other athletes, but a higher prevalence of GAD, and high rates of alcohol misuse. Clubs may consider implementing regular screening for these conditions. Further prospective research to determine causality of independent factors is required.