The research, conducted by Dr Stewart Vella (pictured above) from the Early Start Research Institute, shows that children who drop out of organised sport between the ages of eight and 10 experience greater psychological difficulties at age 10 than those children still participating in organised sports or 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,” Dr Vella 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, with the total relative increase of risk in mental health problems within three years for kids who drop out between 10 to 20 per cent.
Dr Vella said the projected rate of sport dropouts among Australian children was also concerning.
“Based on the drop out 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.”
Dr Vella said kids who drop out of organised sports should be monitored for psychological difficulties.
“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.”
The research, Associations between sports participation and psychological difficulties during childhood: A two year follow up, examined the mental health of more than four thousand children from the Longitudinal Study of Australia Children, comparing those who participated in sport to those who dropped out of sports or did not participate. The research will be formally presented at Sports Medicine Australia’s be active 2014 conference this week.
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