Sport drop outs at mental health risk

AUSTRALIAN primary school kids who drop out of organised sport have up to a 20% greater risk of developing mental health problems within three years.

The new research, to be unveiled at next week's Sports Medicine Australia's conference in Canberra, found children who dropped out of organised sport between the ages of eight and 10 had greater psychological difficulties at age 10 than those children still participating in organised sports.

Lead author Dr Stewart Vella said those children who had dropped out of organised sports reported greater social and emotional problems, as did those who did not participate in organised sport at all.

"We know that sports participation has long been associated with better mental health such as through the development of better social and emotional skills and self-esteem," he said.

"We also know that half of all psychological disorders have their onset before the age of 14 years.

"While we were expecting our results to confirm the negative psychological consequences of dropping out of organised sport, we were surprised by the magnitude of the differences."

Dr Vella said another concern was the projected rate of sport dropouts among Australian children.

"Based on the dropout rates per year recorded during our study, if this number was to remain consistent throughout childhood and adolescence, it would translate to approximately 250,000 young Australians dropping out of organised sports every year," he said.

"Clubs, coaches, parents and health practitioners should also look out for kids experiencing psychological difficulties who drop out of sport, as a higher level of mental health issues may be experienced immediately prior and subsequent to dropping out."


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