Youth sports have positive impact on mental health, study says

Youth sports could be a tool used to battle the youth mental health crisis. 

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry shows that participation in youth sports led to an increase in self-esteem. 

The study, which was conducted in the Netherlands, included more than 4,000 children. The participants were monitored from age 6 to age 13.

The study’s author noted that higher self-esteem was correlated to how well a child performed in their particular sport. 

“Overall, youth with high perceived competence in sports are more likely to experience the positive effects of sports on mental health, which should be considered when choosing a sports-based activity at these ages,” María Rodriguez-Ayllon told the psychology and neuroscience news website PsyPost.

Rodriguez-Ayllon noted that it’s important for parents to not to just put their child in any sport. She said helping children find a sport that they are good at and brings them joy is important.

“This is not only proven to be good for their physical development, but also potentially for their mental health,” she told PsyPost.

In the U.S., the youth mental health crisis is a major concern, particularly among girls. 

According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 60% of teen girls in the U.S. reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless in 2021. That’s more than double the amount of teen girls who expressed those same feelings over the last decade, the CDC reported. In contrast, the study shows that 29% of boys said they persistently felt sad or hopeless.