Social Support, Stress, and Mental Health: Examining the Stress-Buffering Hypothesis in Adolescent Football Athletes

Danae Delfin, Jessica Wallace, Shelby Baez, Justin E. Karr, Douglas P. Terry, Tamaria Hibbler, Aaron Yengo-Kahn, Sharlene Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Context: Football sport participation has been linked to both positive and negative effects on overall health. Social support, a network that provides individuals with resources to cope effectively, may positively influence one’s stress and mental health. However, little research has been conducted on adolescent football players. Objective: To examine the relationships among social support, psychological stress, and mental health in adolescent football athletes. Design: Cross-sectional study. Setting: High school athletes during the precompetitive and postcompetitive football season in rural Alabama. Patients or Other Participants: Black and African American adolescent athletes (N ¼ 93) competing for a school-sponsored football team. Main Outcome Measure(s): After a competitive season, participants completed a battery of social support, psychological stress, and mental health symptom measures using the National Institutes of Health Toolbox Application and Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System. The T-score means, Pearson correlations, and multiple regression analyses were calculated. Results: Social support was negatively correlated with psychological stress (emotional support, r ¼ -0.386; family relationships r ¼ -0.412; peer relationships, r ¼ -0.265) and mental health (depression, r ¼ -0.367 and r ¼ -0.323 for emotional support and family relationships, respectively), whereas psychological stress and mental health (depression, r ¼ 0.751; anxiety, r ¼ 0.732) were positively correlated. In regression analyses, social support measures (ie, emotional support, family relationships, and peer relationships) were used to predict psychological stress (F ¼ 7.094, P,.001, R 2 ¼ 0.191), depression symptoms (F ¼ 5.323, P,.001, R 2 ¼ 0.151), and anxiety symptoms (F ¼ 1.644, P ¼.190, R 2 ¼ 0.052). Conclusions: In line with the stress-buffering hypothesis, social support in the form of family relationships and overall emotional support garnered through sport participation may reduce psychological stress and help to preserve the mental health of football athletes. These findings indicate that perceived social support may act as a positive resource for the coping of Black and African American adolescent athletes. Further research is warranted to understand the effects of stress and social support on the mental health of adolescents, particularly racial and ethnic minorities who are underrepresented in the athletic training literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-505
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Athletic Training
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 National Athletic Trainers' Association Inc.. All rights reserved.


  • minorities
  • psychology
  • sports

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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