Americans, Psychiatrists Agree: Sports Can Be Good for Mental Health


Washington, D.C., July 08, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — As the Olympics kick off in Paris later this month, 84% of Americans who participate in sports—whether on a competitive or recreational level—say it benefits their mental health, according to a new poll. A majority (57%) of American adults say they participate in sports, with men (67%) more likely than women (48%), and non-white individuals (69%) more likely than white (non-Hispanic) individuals (50%) to say so.

Three in four (73%) American adults also say that sports are very or somewhat beneficial for children and teenagers’ mental health. When those who believed so were asked to select the most important benefits of sports to youth mental health, the top three choices were being part of a team (41%), exercise/active lifestyle (41%), and offering increased confidence/self-esteem (31%).

These results are from the American Psychiatric Association (APA)’s Healthy Minds Monthly polls, fielded by Morning Consult on behalf of APA. The poll was fielded June 18-19, 2024, among 2,203 adults.


“You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to reap the mental health benefits of exercise and sports,” said APA President Ramaswamy Viswanathan, M.D., Dr.Med.Sc. “Getting together with a group of friends, working out, having a hobby, all these aspects of sports can be good for positive mental health.”

The benefits of exercise are well-documented in psychiatric research. For instance, exercise has consistently been shown to effectively reduce symptoms of depression and maintain well-being both as a primary treatment and in conjunction with medication or therapy. There is also evidence that exercise benefits individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). (See more on exercise and lifestyle for mental health.)

When asked to indicate from a list of 20 options which sports they participated in, the most popular answers were swimming (19%), basketball (18%), and running (17%). Additionally, 85% of American adults agreed that mental health should be prioritized as much as physical health in professional athletes.

“In recent years we’ve heard Olympic and professional athletes share stories about their own mental health challenges,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Marketa M. Wills, M.D., M.B.A. “Their courage and openness helps others understand that it’s okay to take a break or ask for help when needed.” 

To access the full results of APA’s Healthy Minds Monthly polls, contact [email protected].

American Psychiatric Association
The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1944, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,900 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information, please visit

CONTACT: Erin Connors American Psychiatric Association 202-609-7113 [email protected] 

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