Depression, Suicidal Ideation, and Substance Use Among Adolescents: Are Athletes at Less Risk?

Michael J. Oler, Arch G. Mainous, Catherine A. Martin, Eric Richardson, Amy Haney, David Wilson, Thomas Adams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


To determine the relationship between participation in high school athletic programs and depression, suicidal ideation, and substance use, and to study the high-risk behaviors of suicidal ideation and substance use. Survey. A suburban public high school in Kentucky. We received 823 (80%) responses from 1030 potential respondents. Athletes (ie, participation on a high school athletic team) were compared with nonathletes. Depression was measured by the Children's Depression Inventory by an index of suicidal ideation by an indicator of a past suicide attempt, and by current use of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. Thirty percent of the sample participate in school athletic teams. Athletes are less depressed, have less suicidal ideation and attempts, and are less likely to currently smoke cigarettes or marijuana. The use of smokeless tobacco and cocaine was not related to athletic participation. After controlling for demographic characteristics, no difference in alcohol use was found between athletes and nonathletes. Athletic participation is a marker for a decreased likelihood of depression and some high-risk behaviors in adolescents. Future research could help in creating alternative interventions beyond participation in varsity and junior varsity athletic teams.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)781-785
Number of pages5
JournalArchives of Family Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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