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The connections between young people’s mental health and sport participation: Scoping the evidence

In this scoping review we focused on the role of sport and organised physical activity in helping to prevent and treat mental health problems in young people, particularly in the 14-25 age group.

The results suggested:

- There are positive associations between sport and organised activity and mental health outcomes for young people at all levels of intervention.

- The relationship is strongest for the use of sport to treat symptoms of clinical depression.

- Methodological shortfalls in the existing research mean we have limited understanding about the exact positive benefits. These may be pharmacological, social or behavioural.

- Benefits may vary by gender and for young people from particularly vulnerable or excluded groups.

- There is no ‘one size fits all’ recommendation. There are many ways in which participation in sport and organised exercise can vary, and the effects may be different for different groups of young people.