BACKGROUND: Mental disorders have become a topic of increasing interest in research due to their serious consequences for quality of life and functioning.
OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study was to explore the relationship of level of education, employment status and working hours with symptoms of common mental disorders (distress, anxiety/depression, sleep disturbance, adverse alcohol behaviour, smoking, adverse nutritional behaviour) among current and retired professional footballers.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Cross-sectional analyses were conducted on baseline questionnaires from an ongoing prospective cohort study among current and retired professional footballers. Based on validated scales, an electronic questionnaire was set up and distributed by players' unions in 11 countries across three continents.
RESULTS: A total of 607 current professional footballers (mean age of 27 years) and 219 retired professional footballers (mean age of 35 years) were involved in the study. Among retired professional footballers, statistically significant negative correlations were found between employment status and symptoms of distress and anxiety/depression (P < 0.05), as well as between number of working hours and symptoms of anxiety/depression (P < 0.05). No other statistically significant associations were found among retired players. Among current professional footballers, level of education was not associated with symptoms of common mental disorders.
CONCLUSIONS: Among retired professional footballers, employment status as well as a higher number of working hours was weakly correlated to symptoms of distress and anxiety/depression. Combining a football career with sustainable attention for educational and career planning might be important and of high priority.