Playing Team Sports May Help Kids Ward off Depression, Study Finds

Group activities can teach important social skills

children playing soccer

Playing on the soccer team has obvious physical benefits for your kid. But, a recent study shows that engaging in team sports may also help kids fend off depression.

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The study looked at data on 9,668 children. Researchers found that, among the children who were exposed to adverse childhood experiences (such as abuse, parental separation or household substance abuse), those who participated in team sports reported better mental health in adulthood.

“They found that team sports actually conferred protection in some kids that had adverse life effects,” says pediatric behavioral health specialist Joe Austerman, DO, who did not take part in the study. “These children, when they were older, didn’t get as depressed as often as kids that were not engaged in group activities or sports.”

Building resilience

Team sports help kids learn important social skills and how to interact with their peers more effectively, he explains.

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Through team sports, kids learn how to lead and negotiate with other kids to reach a common goal.

If a child is struggling with emotional regulation or interacting with others, the structured setting of team sports can help create a safe environment to learn important social skills, Dr. Austerman says. And learning these skills in childhood can lead to more positive experiences in the future.

“Having your kids in structured social activities where they can learn appropriately and they can be safe — but activities that help build persistence and resilience — are very positive influences later on in life,” he says.

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This research also shows us how physical and mental health are tied together when it comes to overall well-being, Dr. Austerman says.

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