Professional footballers might be more prone to depression and anxiety than members of the general population, suggests a new study published by world players' union FIFPro. The research led by FIFPro's chief medical officer Dr. Vincent Gouttebarge revealed that depression and anxiety issues affect over a third of current professional footballers.
The findings suggest that 38% of the 607 current players sampled and 35% of 219 former players reported symptoms of depression and anxiety in the four weeks prior to being questioned.
The study also suggested evidence of a correlation between serious injury and depression. Players who had sustained three or more such injuries were found to be between two and four times more likely to report mental health issues.
Dr. Gouttebarge said, "We hope that with this study comes increased awareness and commitment from all stakeholders in football to put supportive measures in place so that those suffering from mental health problems know they are not alone. The study was a necessary first step in ultimately proposing adequate preventive and supportive measures aimed at protecting and empowering the sustainable health of active and retired players."
A previous, smaller study carried out by FIFPro last year found that 26% of players had reported mental health problems, rising to 39% among retired players. The new study is based upon data supplied by FIFPro member unions in Belgium, Chile, Finland, France, Japan, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Of the current players interviewed, 55% had spent the majority of their careers playing at the highest level, rising to 64% among the former players. Other findings include 23% of current players and 28% of former players reporting problems with sleep disturbance. Alcohol abuse, meanwhile, spikes from 9% among current players to 25% among retired players.
Dr. Gouttebarge has called for further research into the apparent correlation between serious injury and depression. He said, "It is crucial to establish a body of work on this important topic. The findings in the current study might justify a multidisciplinary approach to a severely injured footballer."