Game on: diminishing risks for depressive symptoms in early adolescence through positive involvement in team sports

In early adolescence, both girls and boys report increases in levels of depression. However, by late adolescence the rates of depression among girls are double those found among boys. Research shows that boys and girls’ perceptions about athletic competence (how good they are at sports), social acceptance (how popular they are among peers), and body dissatisfaction (negative feelings about their bodies) are strong predictors of depression. Since girls tend to report lower levels of athletic competence, participate in sports at lower rates, and report higher levels of body dissatisfaction than boys, they may be at greater risk for depression. Erin Boone is examining whether positive involvement in team sports increases perceptions of athletic competence and social acceptance, and helps to diminish body dissatisfaction among both girls and boys. The study will be among the first to assess the mechanisms that link positive team sports involvement to diminished risks for depression in adolescence. Findings will outline the mental health benefits associated with team sports involvement and highlight the need to sustain adolescents’ interest and participation in sports.