- Football and mental health are intricately linked.
- In fact, research shows that football players are more vulnerable to mental health issues than non-players.
How Does Football Affect Mental Health?
Football, like any other group sport, involves excellent mental health benefits. It reduces the risks of mental health disorders as well as enhances confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of cooperation.
By reducing stress and anxiety, football abates chronic illnesses like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc. However, experts have presently warned that the benefits of playing football sometimes come with negative consequences—especially for professional football players.
Football And Mental Illness
A recent study by the International Federation of Professional Footballers reveals that professional footballers suffer more from symptoms of depression and anxiety than the general public.
It is found that 8% of current players and 35% of ex-professionals suffer from several mental health problems. Moreover, footballers suffer from mental health conditions like:
- Imposter syndrome
- Performance anxiety
- Eating disorders
- Sleep disorders
- Substance abuse
Which Footballers Have Mental Health Issues?
Over the years, several footballers have publicly shared their mental health struggles. For instance, Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba addressed his struggle with depression. Andres Iniesta from FC Barcelona spoke of grief and recovery from physical injuries.
Former Millwall, Blackburn Rovers, and West Bromwich Albion defender Steven Reid left sports, drew upon his own experience of mental health struggles, and took on a role offering support to professional players around mental well-being.
Recently, William, Prince of Wales sat down with footballers Harry Kane and Declan Rice to discuss mental health and football according to a BBC interview. The conversation included vital issues such as handling defeats, professional setbacks, etc.
Why Is Watching Football So Stressful?
Emerging research, apart from confirming mental health issues in professional football players, also reveals that football fans “off the field” become vulnerable to severe stress and certain mental health conditions.
Studies testify that, when watching football matches, zealous fans experience dangerous levels of adrenaline rush and an increase in the stress hormone called cortisol especially when their favorite teams or players are on screen or during important matches like the FIFA World Cup. For regular viewers and those who bet on matches or enter into heated arguments about who is the best player, an adrenaline rush can trigger stress disorders, severe anxiety, or cardiovascular conditions.
Addressing Mental Health In Association Football
Experts recommend measures to tackle the mental health of football players and fans at the earliest. Emergency hotlines, exercise-based interventions, mindfulness and stress management techniques, and therapies should be available to better the mental health associated with football.
For example, The Prince of Wales, the President of the Football Association in the UK, partnered the Royal Foundation with the Harry Kane Foundation to provide mental health resources to professional footballers. Amongst the services, noteworthy is Shout, a free and confidential 24-hour text messaging service for people with mental illness.