(NewsNation) — Children who play team sports are less likely to suffer mental health problems, according to a new study.
Dr. Matt Hoffmann of California State University and his colleagues analyzed data on the sports habits and mental health of 11,235 children. Parents and guardians reported on various aspects of the children’s mental health by filling out the Child Behavior Checklist.
The survey asked parents whether their kids showed any signs of depression, anxiety, or social withdrawal.
Researchers then studied their answers, and in relation to their kids’ participation in sports, found a positive correlation but only for team sports.
Dr. Sue Varma, a board-certified psychiatrist who works with children, said there are several benefits and social skills that children learn while being on a sports team.
“Particularly at a young age — you gain a sense of community, a sense of cohesion, a sense of togetherness, your social skills are better, you have to negotiate, you are relying on other people for your success,” she explained.
Varma continued: “When you don’t do well, you also have a group of people to spread out the blame, so to speak, so that you’re not taking all the individual responsibility for the wins and the losses. We see that there’s less depression, less anxiety, less social withdrawal, in team sports, children that are playing them.”
Meanwhile, researchers also found that kids who participate in individual sports like wrestling, golf or tennis can be less mentally healthy than kids who don’t participate in sports at all.
However, Varma said it’s important to say that this is a correlation and not necessarily causation, and she doesn’t want this to deter students from participating in sports with the idea that they’re not going to do well mentally.
“Individual sport participation, perhaps because there’s more pressure because you are the individual, you’re the sole person responsible for both the success and the losses, and that if you don’t do well, quote, a person feels like, ‘It’s all my fault,’” she said.
“And there’s a lot of pressure, intense pressure. So we did see higher anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, and perhaps less of the benefits of social cohesion and social skills that we saw with the team sports.”
Varma continued: “I want to caution and say that this could be more of a correlation. And it’s possible that people who already have this, perhaps gravitate towards these kinds of sports or that they exacerbate it, we don’t exactly know for sure.”