The prevalence and risk indicators of symptoms of common mental disorders among current and former Dutch elite athletes

Vincent Gouttebarge, Ruud Jonkers, Maarten Moen, Evert Verhagen, Paul Wylleman, Gino Kerkhoffs

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The aim of the study was to determine the prevalence and comorbidity of symptoms of common mental disorders (distress, anxiety/depression, sleep disturbance, eating disorders, adverse alcohol use) among current and former Dutch elite athletes, and to explore the inference between potential risk indicators (severe injury, surgery, life events, sport career dissatisfaction, social support) and the outcomes measures under investigation. Cross-sectional analyses were conducted on baseline questionnaires from an ongoing prospective cohort study among 203 current and 282 former elite Dutch athletes (response rate: 28% among current athletes and 95% among former athletes). Based on validated scales, an electronic questionnaire was set up and distributed. Prevalence (4-week) ranged from 6% for adverse alcohol use to 45% for anxiety/depression among current elite athletes, and from 18% for distress to 29% for anxiety/depression among former elite athletes. A higher number of past severe injuries, higher number of past surgeries, higher number of recent life events, higher level of career dissatisfaction and lower level of social support were related to the occurrence of symptoms of common mental disorders among both current and former elite athletes. On average, the 4-week prevalence of common mental disorders as shown in our study among current and former Dutch elite athletes were similar to the ones found among athletes from other sports disciplines and does compare with the lifetime prevalence estimates in the general population of the Netherlands
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2148-2156
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of sports sciences
Issue number21
Early online date2016
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2017


  • Sports
  • athletes
  • epidemiology
  • mental disorders

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