Association of Team Sports in Adolescence, Adult Mental Health


JAMA Pediatrics


Media advisory: To contact corresponding author Molly C. Easterlin, M.D., email Enrique Rivero at The full study and editorial are linked to this news release.

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Bottom Line: Participation in team sports as an adolescent was associated with a higher likelihood of some better adult mental health outcomes among individuals with adverse childhood experiences (ACES). This observational study included nearly 9,700 individuals with data on their exposure to ACEs, including physical and sexual abuse, emotional neglect, parental alcohol misuse, parental incarceration and living with a single parent. About 49 percent of the individuals reported exposure to one ACE and about 21 percent reported two or more ACEs. Team sports participation during adolescence was associated with a lower likelihood of a diagnosis of depression and anxiety in young adulthood but not associated at a statistically significant level with current depressive symptoms after accounting for other mitigating factors. The association between team sports and better mental health wasn’t significantly different for males and females. The study cannot determine causality and social determinants of health are hard to isolate. Team sports may help to mitigate the effects of ACEs but other factors may too. The authors suggest teams sports may help to build resilience so policymakers and child health advocates may want to advocate for these programs to be accessible and equitable.

Authors: Molly C. Easterlin, M.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles, National Clinician Scholars Program, and coauthors



Editor’s Note: The article contains funding/support disclosures. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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