A prospective cohort study on symptoms of common mental disorders among Dutch elite athletes

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Scientific knowledge about symptoms of common mental disorders in elite sports is scarce. Consequently, the objectives of the study were to (i) establish the 12-month incidence of symptoms of common mental disorders (CMD; distress, anxiety/depression, sleep disturbance, adverse alcohol use, eating disorders) among Dutch elite athletes and (ii) explore their potential association with several stressors (being injured, recent life events, career dissatisfaction). Methods: A prospective cohort study with a 12-month follow-up period was conducted. The study used validated questionnaires to assess symptoms of common mental disorders (thus not clinically diagnosed) as well as several stressors; an electronic questionnaire was set up and repeatedly distributed. Results: A total of 203 elite athletes gave their written informed consent to participate in the study, from which 143 completed the 12-month follow-up period (follow-up rate of 70%). Incidence of symptoms of CMD ranged from 6% for adverse alcohol use to 57% for symptoms of anxiety/depression. Over the follow-up period, around 17% of the participants reported two simultaneous symptoms of CMD, and around 19% reported three simultaneous symptoms of CMD. Inferences between some stressors and symptoms of CMD were found but none of the associations were statistically significant. Conclusions: Substantial 12-month incidence rates of symptoms of CMD (self-reported and not clinically diagnosed) were found among Dutch elite athletes (especially for anxiety/depression), appearing similar to the ones found among athletes from other sports disciplines and the Dutch general population. Also, inferences between some stressors and symptoms of CMD were found but none of the associations were statistically significant. Supportive and preventive measures directed towards symptoms of CMD should be developed to improve awareness and psychological resilience of athletes, which would likely improve their performance and quality-of-life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)426-432
Number of pages7
JournalPhysician and Sportsmedicine
Volume45
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2017

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