Determinants of anxiety in elite athletes: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Simon M. Rice, Kate Gwyther, Olga Santesteban-Echarri, David Baron, Paul Gorczynski, Vincent Gouttebarge, Claudia L. Reardon, Mary E. Hitchcock, Brian Hainline, Rosemary Purcell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

165 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To identify and quantify determinants of anxiety symptoms and disorders experienced by elite athletes. DESIGN: Systematic review and meta-analysis. DATA SOURCES: Five online databases (PubMed, SportDiscus, PsycINFO, Scopus and Cochrane) were searched up to November 2018 to identify eligible citations. ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA FOR SELECTING STUDIES: Articles were included if they were published in English, were quantitative studies and measured a symptom-level anxiety outcome in competing or retired athletes at the professional (including professional youth), Olympic or collegiate/university levels. RESULTS AND SUMMARY: We screened 1163 articles; 61 studies were included in the systematic review and 27 of them were suitable for meta-analysis. Overall risk of bias for included studies was low. Athletes and non-athletes had no differences in anxiety profiles (d=-0.11, p=0.28). Pooled effect sizes, demonstrating moderate effects, were identified for (1) career dissatisfaction (d=0.45; higher anxiety in dissatisfied athletes), (2) gender (d=0.38; higher anxiety in female athletes), (3) age (d=-0.34; higher anxiety for younger athletes) and (4) musculoskeletal injury (d=0.31; higher anxiety for injured athletes). A small pooled effect was found for recent adverse life events (d=0.26)-higher anxiety in athletes who had experienced one or more recent adverse life events. CONCLUSION: Determinants of anxiety in elite populations broadly reflect those experienced by the general population. Clinicians should be aware of these general and athlete-specific determinants of anxiety among elite athletes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)722-730
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

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