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Mental health in student-athletes in Norwegian lower secondary sport schools
  1. Milla Saarinen1,
  2. Daniel John Phipps2,3,
  3. Christian Thue Bjørndal1,4
  1. 1Norwegian Research Centre for Child and Youth Sport, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  2. 2Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyvaskyla, Finland
  3. 3School of Applied Psychology, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  4. 4Department of Sport and Social Sciences, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway
  1. Correspondence to Dr Milla Saarinen; milla.saarinen{at}


Objectives The Norwegian sport school system offers a method for helping young dual-career athletes achieve their best both in academia and sports. However, there remains a concern that pursuing dual careers at a young age may leave some student-athletes vulnerable to poor mental health outcomes. The aim of this study was to investigate the association between gender, grade, and sport type and problematic scores on school burn-out, sport burn-out, self-esteem and psychological distress in student-athletes within a sample of Norwegian lower secondary schools.

Methods A sample of 642 student-athletes (ages 12–14) in grades 8–10 across 8 Norwegian lower secondary sport schools completed questionnaires on burn-out, self-esteem and psychological distress at the beginning of the school year.

Results Females were more likely to report high levels of sport-related burn-out and psychological distress, and low self-esteem; older student-athletes were more likely to report severe school-related and sport-related burn-out; and individual sport student-athletes were more likely to report high levels of psychological distress.

Conclusions Lower secondary sport schools in Norway may seek to be aware of the challenges facing student-athletes for informed practical steps to protect their mental health and maximise their outcomes as school students and athletes.

  • Athlete
  • Children's health and exercise
  • Gender
  • Mental

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  • Contributors Conceptualisation: MS, DJP and CTB; Data curation: MS and DJP; Formal analysis: DJP; Funding acquisition: CTB; Investigation: MS; Methodology: MS and DJP; Project administration: MS and CTB; Resources: CTB; Writing–original draft: MS and DJP; Writing–review and editing: MS, DJP and CTB.

  • Funding This research was supported by the Norwegian Research Council, grant number 326532

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.