Low sports participation is associated with withdrawn and depressed symptoms in urban, school-age children

Punit N. Matta, Tithi D. Baul, Krystel Loubeau, Jennifer Sikov, Natalie Plasencia, Ying Sun, Andrea E. Spencer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: The association between sports participation and mental health has not been studied in primary care samples of school-age children, nor in underrepresented minority children. We assessed the relationship between number of sports played and psychiatric symptoms in children ages 6-11 at well-child visits in an urban clinic. Methods: Guardians of 206 children (85% Latinx) ages 6-11 completed Child Behavior Checklists (CBCL) in Spanish (66.5%) or English at well-child visits at an urban community health center. We performed linear regression between number of sports played and individual CBCL syndrome scores, and multiple logistic regression with normal (T-score <60) vs. elevated (T-score ≥60) CBCL syndrome scale score as the outcome. We conducted bivariate, multiple logistic regression, and linear regression analyses between low (1 or fewer) vs. high (2 or more) sports participators and subscales of interest. Results: Fewer sports played was associated with higher Withdrawn/Depressed CBCL syndrome scale T-scores (p = 0.019), but not with other CBCL syndrome scale scores nor number of syndrome scale elevations (p = 0.638). Low participators had higher odds of an elevated Withdrawn/Depressed T-score (p = 0.033) than high participators. Limitations: Our dataset did not contain certain details about sports played, nor information about income and insurance, and our results may not generalize to other populations. Conclusions: Playing fewer sports is associated with higher withdrawn/depressed symptoms in urban, predominantly Latinx, school-age children. Therefore, urban school-age children with low sports participation may be at risk for depression, and sports participation might protect against depressive symptoms in childhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-29
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021


  • Children
  • Depression
  • Hispanic-Americans
  • Mental health
  • Pediatrics
  • Sports

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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