High School Athletes Experiencing Increased Anxiety, Depression During Pandemic, Study Shows

Megan Hart:

Public health experts should carefully consider the long-term effects of extended school closures as the coronavirus pandemic continues, according to a researcher at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Dr. Timothy McGuine led a team who surveyed more than 3,200 young athletes across the state in May, about three months after schools were closed to slow the spread of COVID-19. McGuine said they focused on athletes because they had control data from before the pandemic for comparison.

The survey was conducted online and took about seven minutes to complete. The athletes who responded came from 71 different Wisconsin counties and played a variety of sports.

Reports of moderate to severe depressionwere up by more than 20 percent among those who took the survey in May. According to researchers, this means 66,000 young athletes across the state could be at risk for depression.

Meanwhile, 65 percent of recent survey respondents reported feeling a level of anxiety that’s typically treated by medical intervention, McGuine said.

At the same time, physical activity was down 50 percent among those who took the survey in May. Exercise is considered a powerful intervention against anxiety and depression, he said.