Interactive effects of sex and pain on elevated depressive symptoms in university student athletes

Daniel Walker, Carly McKay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


Student athletes are a unique group that balances sporting and academic prowess with a reduction in social support when moving away from home. Thus, many studies indicate that student athletes may experience higher depressive symptoms compared to the general public, with sex, pain, and injury status reported to influence this. Therefore, this study aimed to identify whether sex, injury or pain predicts elevated depressive symptoms among student athletes and whether there are interactions between these factors. Depression scores were measured using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CESD). Of 130 participants, 43% displayed depressive symptoms recorded as scoring ≥16 on the CESD, which is much higher than what is seen in the general public. A multiple linear regression revealed that sex (p = .022) and physical pain (p = .015) explained almost 9% of the variance in depressive symptoms (p = .022). Women were found to be more susceptible to experiencing depressive symptoms and there was a significant interaction between sex and pain (p = .002). Injury was not found to be a significant predictor (p = .566). Therefore, it is important to be aware of physical pain levels in women student athletes to protect their mental health regardless of whether they are injured or not. Improving our knowledge in this area can improve the support given towards student athletes that are experiencing physical pain. This may provide sports coaches with a greater insight into the well-being of their athletes and lead to improved athlete support.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)428-439
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date30 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2023


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