Why High School Sports Are A Victory For Mental Health


Thanks to the World Cup, soccer is everywhere right now. Watching all of those games may even inspire your teens to try out for the school team — and you should encourage them to do so! Playing high school sports helps teens stay in shape, and now a new study suggests there are major mental health benefits, too. Whether baseball, basketball, or lacrosse, athletic teens (grades 8 through 12) have less stress and better mental health as young adults than those who don't play sports, according to recent research.

The study took place at the University of Toronto and measured the long-term impact of high school sports. Students from 10 Canadian schools were surveyed in each grade over the course of five years. Then after they graduated, they were surveyed for three years about depression and stress. Those who participated in high school sports reported lower stress and fewer depression symptoms later in life.

Catherine M. Sabiston was the study's lead author. Explaining the findings, she wrote,

There is surprisingly little known about school sport, so we can only speculate as to the unique effects, but we suspect it might be due to school sport providing adolescents with opportunities to bond with other students, feel connected to their school, interact with their peers and coaches, thus, really providing a social and active environment."

This makes sense, since sports foster tons of teamwork and bonding. Plus, physical activity is known to boost energy and reduce anxiety.

While these mental health benefits are good news, of course, remember that it's important for teens to protect their heads! Concussions and other sports injuries can have horrible effects and it's better to be safe than sorry. Remind them to always wear a helmet (when possible) and sit out after suffering head trauma.

Did you know there's a health and well-being magazine for teens? Subscribe to Choices today, and check out our past articles about sports safety, including "Playing Through The Pain" and "The Concussion Crisis."