IOC Mental Health in Elite Athletes Toolkit (2021)
It is estimated that approximately 13 per cent of the global population experience some form of mental health disorder.(1) Indeed, mental health disorders have been found to be one of the leading causes of functional impairment worldwide, causing the highest disease burden.(2,3,4)
Whilst evidence consistently demonstrates that regular physical activity is associated with improvements in physical and mental wellness, studies nonetheless show that just over one in three athletes may experience mental health symptoms.(5,6)
Despite their unique sporting talents, athletes are not immune to mental health challenges, such as burnout, distress, anxiety, depression, unhealthy eating patterns, insomnia and alcohol or drug misuse.(6)
Many different factors can impact athlete mental wellness: Injury, performance pressures, dealing with failure and/or success, and career transition out of sport are all associated with mental health symptoms. This is in addition to the life challenges experienced outside sport, such as grief, relationship conflicts and financial difficulties.
Whilst it is estimated that the prevalence of mental health symptoms and disorders may be even higher in elite athletes than in the general population, it is important to note that all
athletes can optimize their mental well-being and life balance.
This toolkit is intended to equip Olympic Movement stakeholders with the knowledge and guidance to protect and promote elite athletes’ mental health and well-being.