Exercise as it relates to Disease/Does the pattern of team sport participation from adolescence to young adulthood positively impact mental health?

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This wikipedia page is a University of Canberra assignment critiquing the article “Association between pattern of team sport participation from adolescence to young adulthood and mental health”[1].

What is the background to this research?[edit | edit source]

Mental illness is a term used to describe a health issue that notably affects a person's reasoning, thought patterns, behaviour and their interactions[2]. In 2007, 46% of Australians between 16-85 reported previously experiencing a mental disorder [3].

Social isolation is a risk factor of mental illness with potential long term impacts in future stages of life[4]. The social identity model of identity change explains that wellbeing can be enhanced through periods of adjustment, if a person is able to maintain preexisting social group memberships that they deem to be important[5]. Physical activity has also been shown to increase positive mental health[6]. The article being critiqued, aims to incorporate an analysis of social interactions and physical activity, by obtaining correlational data on team sport participation and mental illness in the transition between adolescence and young adulthood. The hypothesis was, initiating or sustaining team sport participation would correlate to a decrease in depression, stress, and anxiety disorder symptoms [1].

Data on team sport participation and mental illness was taken from a 2014 study on nicotine dependence in teens (NDIT)[7].

Where is the research from?[edit | edit source]

The data originates from an Canadian study published in 2021 by authors Ross M. Murray et al. All authors are all PHD graduates with extensive background in the field of physical activity[1]. Author Ross M. Murray has a strong reputation of highly credible articles throughout his career with extensive research in the area of mental behaviours and physical activity[8]. Similar culture and statistics of mental health and physical activity levels between Australia and Canada, creates a valid comparison when addressing this study to an Australian population[9].

The NDIT study received a grant from the Canadian Cancer Society. This charity has no vested interests in any findings of the study[7]. There was no outlined conflict of interest in either of the two articles[1][7].

What kind of research was this?[edit | edit source]

This article is a correlational study, used to understand complex relationships between multiple different variables. A limitation of correlational data is the inability to identify a causal result[10].

The data that was derived from the NDIT study was a longitudinal cohort study conducted from 1999-2012. This form of study allows the ability to assess changes over time. Multiple outcomes can be also examined in comparison to a single factor. Limitations include compliance levels, time, and expense. When commitments are longer in duration by the participant, selective attrition can occur. Prolonged studies also tend to incur higher costs[11].

What did the research involve?[edit | edit source]

NDIT Study

Participants were recruited from 10 different schools across Montreal. Sex ratios in the study were 54% female, 46% male[7].

Eligibilty Criteria
School Participant
Dual French and English language speaking Parental consent form signed
Urban, suburban or rural Grade 7 at an eligible school
High or low socioeconomic status neighborhoods
Located in Montreal


Participants were placed into three categories based on the data they provided in the questionnaire that was conducted every 3 months (20 repetitions) between grade 7-11 and 2007–08 and 2011–12. This questionnaire included ten questions targeting depression levels, one question on perceived stress, two on coping, and nine questions targeting anxiety levels[7].

Catergories Duration of Team Sport Participation
Sustainers entire duration of study
Discontinuers > 3 months, discontinued in adolescence
Non-Participants < 3 months


All data from this study was self-reported, potentially affecting the reliability and validity of the results. Whilst this method is a quick and effective mechanism to generate results, self-reported data may contain social desirability and recall bias. Another form of bias within the study was sampling bias. The type of sampling conducted was convenience sampling. The students were not chosen to participate in a random sample. Any student was able to hand in a consent form signed by parental guardians. All students in Canadian private schools were excluded from this research which adds an increased amount of bias to the non random sample of students.

What were the basic results?[edit | edit source]

Seven-hundred and thirty-three participants were retained for the entirety of the study from an original 1294. There was a significant correlation between the participants that were retained and having a parent who studied at a university level. This correlation had no significant relationship between mental health levels of participants. No data was analysed on participants who started team sport in early adulthood as the number was too small to effectively analyse the results[1].

A one way MANCOVA and ANCOVAs identified the associations between team sport participation with depression, stress, and coping. Significant data in this study was deemed to have a p value of <0.05. Bivariate logistic regression was used to predict the variation in mental illness as a result of team sport participation. Potential confounders between relationships were included as covariates across all of the testing procedures. Post-hoc comparisons were completed to identify means, standard errors, effect sizes, and confidence intervals for the data. No casual data was able to be obtained however significant relationships were outlined[1].

Sustainers experienced less stress compared to discontinuers, and experienced fewer panic disorder symptoms when compared to non-participants. When compared to both groups, sustainers had a significantly better coping ability. Depression symptoms, generalised anxiety, social anxiety, and agoraphobia all had no significant differences between sustainers, compared to non-participants and discontinuers.

What conclusions can we take from this research?[edit | edit source]

Based on the results, the hypothesis was partially accepted. The authors were able to effectively analyse the results using multiple high quality assessments. There was no bias in the presentation of the data and no attempt to skew the results. It was stated that further research needs to be conducted to provide causal evidence. The authors were able accept the limitations of the study, and explicitly stated them in the report.

Whilst the data showed evidence of significant relationships related to positive benefits of team sport participation, more comprehensive measures of health should be measured in further studies as the data analysed was self-reported. The reliability of self reported data cannot be depended upon. The variables being examined cannot be separated entirely from external life occurrences.

Practical advice[edit | edit source]

It would be beneficial to encourage team sport participation in adolescence, as it appears to have positive relationships with mental health. This study is able to provide health practitioners potential strategies to improve mental health in young people. As a health incentive, governments could aim to increase availability of team sports in the community. More information is needed to determine the benefits of structured team sport programs aimed to increase the mental health of a person. Further studies should look into the effect social interaction may have unrelated to physical activity also have on mental health.

Further information/resources[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c d e f Ross M. Murray Catherine M. Sabiston, Isabelle Doré, Mathieu Bélanger, Jennifer L. O’Loughlin (2021), Association between pattern of team sport participation from adolescence to young adulthood and mental health, scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, [cited September 2021]. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/sms.13957
  2. Australian Government (2007). Department of Health | What is mental illness? [Internet]. Www1.health.gov.au. 2007 [cited 10 September 2021]. Available from: https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/mental-pubs-w-whatmen-toc~mental-pubs-w-whatmen-what
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: summary of results, 2007. ABS cat. no. 4326.0. Canberra: ABS.[cited September 2021]. Available from: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/mental-health/national-survey-mental-health-and-wellbeing-summary-results/latest-release
  4. World Health Organization and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (2014). Social determinants of mental health. Geneva, World Health Organization, [cited September 2021]. Available from: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/112828/9789241506809_eng.pdf
  5. Catherine Haslam et al. (2018). The Importance of Social Groups for Retirement Adjustment: Evidence, Application, and Policy Implications of the Social Identity Model of Identity Change, Journal of social issues and policy reviews, [cited September 2021]. Available from: https://spssi.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/sipr.12049
  6. Ashish Sharma, Vishal Madaan, Frederick D. Petty (2006),Exercise for mental health, Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry.[cited September 2021]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/
  7. a b c d e Jennifer O’Loughlin et al. (2014). Cohort Profile: The Nicotine Dependence in Teens (NDIT) Study , International Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 44, Issue 5, Pages 1537–1546 [cited September 2021]. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/44/5/1537/2594537?login=true
  8. N/A, (2021), Ross M. Murray, ResearchGate, .[cited September 2021]. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ross-Murray-2
  9. Government of Canada (2006). The human face of mental health and mental illness in Canada. Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.[cited September 2021]. Available from: https://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/human-humain06/pdf/human_face_e.pdf  
  10. Francis Lau, Craig Kuziemsky (2016). Handbook of eHealth Evaluation: An Evidence-based Approach (12.2.3). [cited September 2021]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK481614/
  11. Kendra Cherry (2020), The Pros and Cons of Longitudinal Research, verywell mind, [cited September 2021]. Available from: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-longitudinal-research-2795335