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Study of B.C. students finds link between playing team sports, better mental health

WATCH: A new UBC study says participating in team sports has a positive effect on the mental health of preteens. Linda Aylesworth reports.

A new University of British Columbia study is reinforcing the importance of extra-curricular activities to children’s mental health.

The study collected data on more than 10,000 B.C. students starting in Grade 4 and then revisited them in Grade 7

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According to lead author Eva Oberle of UBC’s School of Population and Public Heath, researchers found that kids who participated in team sports experienced greater mental health benefits than those who participated in individual activities — like music lessons or solo sports — or did not take part in extra-curricular activities at all.

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Oberle said playing on a team, regardless of the sport, gave kids a feeling that they and their teammates were “in this together.”

“I think team sports naturally foster peer belonging,” she said.

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Oberle notes that the study shouldn’t be interpreted to say that individual activities aren’t beneficial. She also notes that other group activities — such as playing in an orchestra — can also promote a sense of peer belonging.

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1 in 3 families going into debt for children’s extracurricular activities: Ipsos poll
1 in 3 families going into debt for children’s extracurricular activities: Ipsos poll

Oberle says the study suggests that communities should work to encourage kids to participate in team sports by making them more affordable and having them take place in locations, such as as school grounds, “that can also be accessible to children without having to involve a parent getting them from A to B at a specific time during the workday.”

— With files from Linda Aylesworth