Mental health in Danish elite athletes: Factors affecting athletes’ mental well-being, anxiety, and depression

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Objectives: The purpose of this study was (a) to investigate mental well-being and the prevalence of anxiety and depressive symptoms among Danish elite athletes, and (b) to explore factors that contribute to Danish athletes’ mental health and ill-health.
Design and Methods: A total of 612 Danish athletes (M = 18.99, SD = 4.29) from 18 different sports completed an online version of the Holistic Athlete Mental Health Survey (HAMHS), assessing well-being, depression, and anxiety together with several explanatory variables (e.g., injury, environment, social support, stressors). The prevalence of symptoms was compared by gender and elite sports level. Three separate multiple backward regression analyses were conducted with well-being, anxiety, and depression, as the outcome variables and 16 potential risk and protective factors as explanatory variables.
Results and Conclusions: A total of 13.9% of athletes reported moderate or severe anxiety symptoms. Moderate or severe depressive symptoms were reported by 21.1% of athletes. Female athletes had a significantly higher prevalence of anxiety and depressive symptoms and lower mental well-being scores than male athletes. Social support both from the private and sports domains, along with a mastery-orientated and autonomy-supportive training environment were among the most influential factors enhancing mental well-being. Perceived stress from the private, the sport, and the educational/work domains were the strongest predictors for anxiety and depressive symptoms. Results are discussed from a contextual and holistic ecological perspective. Furthermore, practical implications on how to support and study the mental health of athletes are provided.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Publication statusSubmitted - Jan 2020



  • mental health
  • elite athletes
  • well-being
  • depression
  • anxiety

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