Investigating the effect of sports participation on the mental health and wellbeing of adolescents in New Zealand
The physical health benefits of sports participation have been well-established, however, the influences on mental health and wellbeing may still be unclear (Slater & Tiggemann, 2011; Steiner et al., 2000). The argument currently stands that sports participation has positive influences on mental health and wellbeing for adolescents, however, there are movements towards the concept that the sporting environment may foster negative experiences for adolescents. Two studies were conducted in order to assess the relationship between sports participation and wellbeing. Study One firstly examined sex differences and effect of sports participation on wellbeing. Consistent with previous research, females demonstrated higher levels of depression and anxiety, while males exhibited higher levels of self-esteem. Sports participation only influenced levels of depression, and not anxiety or self-esteem. Self-esteem mediated the relationship between gender and wellbeing, while sports participation did not. Study Two investigated the effect of sports participation on the wellbeing of adolescent males in New Zealand. A particular focus was taken on the possible negative influence New Zealand rugby culture may have on wellbeing. Contrary to previous research, sports participation did not have an effect on depression, anxiety, stress, conformity to masculine norms or sporting identity. Those who played an individual sport had higher levels of self-esteem and sports orientation compared to those who did not play sports, but not team sports or rugby. This research is one of the first to look at male adolescents and more specifically rugby culture and its effects on wellbeing. Mixed results from Study One and Two indicate that there are possibly gaps in the theory about sports participation and its effect of wellbeing, suggesting that further research is needed to expand the knowledge around this relationship.