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Coronavirus shutdown: sharp rise in players reporting depression symptoms

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The number of professional footballers reporting anxiety and depression symptoms has risen sharply since measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19 caused the suspension of professional football activities, a survey by FIFPRO and Amsterdam University Medical Centers has found.

Notably, the percentage of professional footballers reporting symptoms of depression has doubled.

Between March 22 and April 14, FIFPRO and affiliated national player associations surveyed 1,602 professional footballers in countries that had implemented drastic measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus such as mass home-confinement. 1,134 male players, with a mean age of 26, and 468 female players, with a mean age of 23, took part in the survey.

Twenty-two percent of women players and 13 percent of men players reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of depression. Eighteen percent of the women and 16 percent of the men reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of generalized anxiety. (In most scientific research, a higher number of women than men report symptoms of depression and anxiety.)

The percentage of players reporting symptoms was significantly higher among those worried about their future in the football industry, the survey found. In a separate survey of 307 players, with a similar mean age, in December and January - before most football competitions were suspended - 11 percent of the female players and six percent of the male players reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of depression.

“These figures show there has been a sharp increase in players suffering from anxiety and depression symptoms since the coronavirus shut down professional football, and I fear that this is also the case for the whole of society facing an unprecedented emergency because of Covid-19,” FIFPRO Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vincent Gouttebarge said.

“In football, suddenly young men and women athletes are having to cope with social isolation, a suspension of their working lives and doubts about their future. Some may not be well equipped to confront these changes and we encourage them to seek help from a person they trust or a mental health professional.”

Players were surveyed in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Ireland, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, South Africa, Switzerland and the United States.

More than 75 percent of players surveyed reported that they had access to sufficient resources and support for their mental health. Most player associations in the 16 countries surveyed provide mental health support for players such as a helpline and access to trained counsellors.

The original article can be found here.

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