Identifying Stress Unique to College Athletes: Health Outcomes & Interventions

Presenter: Peter Ward

Research Category: Health Sciences
PI: Mariya Shiyko


Negative mental health in college students represents a rising concern, as it often correlates with behaviors such as substance abuse and suicide. Emerging evidence identifies stressors unique to the college athlete, related to physical and mental health risks. Recent statistics indicate that 95% of male and 85% of female athletes report higher stress compared to 52% of non-athlete students. Athletes report higher stress in romantic relationships, higher responsibilities, decreased sleep, and extracurricular activity demand. This literature review identifies stressors specific to student athletes and investigates associated health consequences. Authors also identify research gaps concerning interventions tailored to the student-athlete including mindfulness interventions.


Authors review literature on stressors and risk factors impacting college athletes. Literature searches utilized PubMed, Google Scholar, PsycINFO, and Science Direct. Keyword searches included: “student athlete,” “stress,” “mental health” and “mindfulness.”


Stressors specific to college athletes include balancing academic demands with travel, interpersonal issues with teammates and coaches, and increased practice time during the athletic season. Health risks include insufficient sleep, exhaustion/fatigue, digestive problems, elevated anxiety and performance-related burdens. Findings suggest that college athletes experiencing substantial stress are more likely to practice unhealthy habits and experience psychological issues.

Conclusions & Recommendations

Intervention is necessary to reduce negative health outcomes in college athletes. Literature describing means of stress reduction in comparable athlete populations (e.g. elite/adolescent athletes) includes mindfulness skill building. Authors consider the feasibility of mindfulness-based interventions for college athletes. Recommendations for future research include interventions accessible to college student athletes and incorporating their unique needs.