Athletic retirement: factors contributing to sleep and mental health problems

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Introduction: The aim of this investigation was to determine which factors were associated with symptoms of sleep and mental health disorders in former athletes.

Methods: Former athletes (N = 173, 50% women) who retired from any competition level within the last 20 years participated in an online survey. The survey consisted of the Athlete Sleep Screening Questionnaire (ASSQ), Personal Wellbeing Index-Adult (PWI-A), Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale-Revised (CESD-R), and Generalised Anxiety Disorder Assessment (GAD-7).

Results: Binary logistic regressions revealed that both age (OR = 0.95 [95% CI:0.92, 0.99], p = 0.007) and gender (OR = 2.28 [95% CI:1.09, 4.79], p = 0.029) were associated with anxiety, with women and younger ex-athletes presenting greater risk of anxiety symptoms. Higher body mass was associated with an increased risk for sleep difficulty (OR = 1.13 [95% CI:1.03, 1.23], p = 0.008), sleep disordered breathing (OR = 1.20 [95% CI:1.10, 1.30], p < 0.001), and compromised wellbeing (OR = 0.89 [95% CI:0.83, 0.96], p = 0.001). Athletes who subjectively placed a lower priority on sport while competing presented greater risk of sleep disordered breathing (OR = 2.00[95% CI:1.05, 3.80], p = 0.035). No associations between recency retirement and any outcome measures were observed.

Discussion: Findings suggest potential predictive factors for difficulty transitioning out of sport. Future longitudinal research should consider the interplay between sport re-engagement and the incidence and chronicity of sleep and mental health disorders.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1350925
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2024


  • anxiety
  • depression
  • gender
  • recency of retirement
  • sleep disorders
  • sport


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