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NCAA Survey Shows Increase in Mental Health Struggles Among Women, Athletes of Color in 2020

The NCAA released its results from the Student-Athlete Well-Being Study on Tuesday, revealing that there is an increase in mental health battles among women and athletes of color in the NCAA. 

The study examined the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the physical and mental well-being of college athletes during 2020 across all three divisions. Close to 25,000 athletes took the survey, representing all conferences across all divisions. 

While athletes overall reported fewer sleep difficulties and lower levels of loneliness, loss, anger and sadness in the fall compared to the beginning of the pandemic, there were elevated rates of anxiety, hopelessness, mental exhaustion and feelings of depression across the board. 

Some of the biggest mental health concerns for NCAA athletes include academic worries (43%), lack of access to sport (33%), COVID health concerns (31%) and financial worries (24%). A large number of athletes of color cited racism within the last month as negatively impacting their mental health. 

Out of the 64% who reported they almost always followed social distancing guidelines (masks, physical distance, no large gatherings), women were more likely to report "almost always" compared to men (67% to 59% respectively). Athletes of color (71%) selected the same answer more frequently than their white teammates (62%). 

Almost half of the Division I athletes who answered the survey had to isolate or be quarantined due to COVID-19 (44%) while Division II and Division III were 43% and 27% respectively. 

A sizable amount of athletes (9%) also reported that someone close to them was hospitalized or died due to the coronavirus. Black and Latinx athletes were twice as likely to report this result compared to white athletes. 

And as the country continues to grapple with the pandemic and uncertainty of the future, senior athletes are struggling as well. Nearly half have lost internships or jobs because of COVID-19, and 18% of males and 12% of females expect to delay their graduations. 

As the pandemic continues to rage on, more athletes have been reaching out about their mental health battles. The NCAA found that in most cases, the rates of reporting these concerns in the last month are 1.5-2 times higher than in NCAA pre-pandemic studies.

Details of how and if the governing body will use these results to address the matter are unknown at this time.