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February 06, 2016

Drexel study: 24 percent of Division 1 athletes suffer from depression

A recent study from researchers at Drexel University found that nearly a quarter of Division 1 college athletes suffer from depression.

The study, published in the February issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at data from three consecutive years from 465 undergraduate athletes who attended NCAA private universities.

It found that 24 percent of those athletes reported "clinically relevant" levels of depression symptoms.

Levels were much higher among female athletes, with 38 percent reporting symptoms, while 18 percent of male athletes reported symptoms.

The study looked at athletes from the following sports: baseball/softball, basketball, cheerleading, crew, field hockey, lacrosse, track and field, soccer and tennis.

While researchers noted that student athletes tend to have strong support systems available, the pressures of performing on and off the field can have adverse effects.

“Student-athletes face pressure, and there is lot of opportunity for failure, which can be a key component of depression,” said Eugene Hong, MD, associate dean for primary care and community health at the Drexel University College of Medicine. “They are expected to succeed, but many underperform once they get to college.”

Previous research has found similar trends of high levels of depression among college students. A 2013 study found an alarming number: 31.3 percent of students "felt so depressed it was difficult to function."

Hong said that until now, research looking at how depression impacts college students specifically has been scarce. He hopes this study can aid in finding and helping high-risk students.

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