Factors affecting elite athletes’ mental health: A systematic review

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Aim: The purpose of this study was to provide a systematic mapping review of factors related to mental health (MH) of elite athletes.
Method: Through a systematic database search, a total of 43 empirical studies were included in this review. The studies were evaluated and are reported according to sample characteristics, research design, and factors affecting elite athletes’ MH.
Results: Studies examined a wide range of sports and ages. Sample sizes ranged from 8 to 2067 and were recruited both in individual and team sports mainly in Europe and Australia. Researchers used quantitative (84%), qualitative (11%), and mixed-method (5%) designs. Across the studies, we identified a total of 82 correlates related to athletes’ MH. Eighty-one percent of the studies examined personal risk factors (e.g., injury, ineffective coping), while 37% of the studies examines sport-environmental risk factors (e.g., deselection). Personal protective factors (e.g., recovery) were investigated in 30% of the studies, while 25 % of the studies investigated sport-environmental protective factors (e.g., trusting climate).
Conclusions: Previous studies focusing on athletes’ MH have mostly investigated the prevalence of athletes’ mental ill-health (e.g., depression, anxiety) and the related factors compromising MH. The few qualitative studies provide some insights into potential protective factors and consider MH as a resource for a successful and sustainable sports career. We advocate that future studies include the whole spectrum of the mental health continuum (i.e., from languishing to flourishing; Keyes, 2002) with an increased focus on the role of the (sport) environment and the athlete-environment fit.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event15th European Congress of Sport & Exercise Psychology (FEPSAC) - University of Münster, Münster, Germany
Duration: 15. Jul 201920. Jul 2019


Conference15th European Congress of Sport & Exercise Psychology (FEPSAC)
LocationUniversity of Münster
Internet address


  • elite athletes
  • mental health
  • systematic review
  • sport
  • well-being


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