Prevalence of mental health symptoms among male and female Australian professional footballers

Özgür Kilic, Sean Carmody, Judith Upmeijer, Gino M. M. J. Kerkhoffs, Rosemary Purcell, Simon Rice, Vincent Gouttebarge

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Objective Determining the prevalence of mental health symptoms (MHS) among Australian professional footballers compared with former players. A secondary aim was to assess whether MHS were associated with recent injury and psychological resilience. Methods This cross-sectional study included 149 male (mean age: 24 years) and 132 female (mean age: 23 years) Australian A-League and W-League professional footballers (study group) and 81 former male footballers (control group, mean age: 39 years) for analysis. MHS and psychological resilience were assessed through validated questionnaires. Severe injuries were assessed through a single question. The adjusted Wald method was used to assess the primary aim. Logistic regression analyses was used to assess the secondary aim. Results The most prevalent MHS among active footballers and former footballers was sport-related psychological distress (63%) and alcohol misuse (69%), respectively. Global psychological distress, sleep disturbance, alcohol misuse and substance misuse were significantly lower among active male footballers than among former players. Increased psychological resilience among active male footballers was associated with a decrease in symptoms of sport-related and global psychological distress, anxiety and depression of 9%, 14%, 23% and 20%, respectively. Increased psychological resilience among female players was associated with 10% decrease in symptoms of depression. Problem gambling and sleep disturbance was associated with injury in the previous 6 months among active male and female footballers, respectively. Conclusions MHS are prevalent among active and former professional footballers. Higher level of psychological resilience is associated with decreased reporting of MHS. Severe injury is associated with problem gambling and sleep disturbance.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere001043
JournalBMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2021


  • epidemiology
  • football
  • mental
  • soccer

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