Women's Sport: New survey finds female footballers suffer more with depression than men

22% of female footballers have reported symptoms consistent with depression, according to a survey by the global players’ union Fifpro.

The study interviewed 1,602 professional footballers between 22nd March and 14th April 2020, and found that the number of players reporting symptoms associated with anxiety and depression had significantly increased.

These figures come just days after the Players Football Association announced that there had been a “spike” in mental health related incidents.

The FifPro study also showed that 22% of female players from 468 interviewed, reported depression related symptoms, compared with 13% of men from 1,134 interviewees. Added to this, 18% of women vs 16% of men reported “markers of generalised anxiety.” These statistics represent a troubling surge in cases, compared with studies from back in December and January from when the football season was still active, where 11% and 6% of women respectively, reported similar symptoms.

Tanya Oxtoby, manager of Bristol City Women and a former government psychologist, said there are signs that the coronavirus pandemic is part of the reason players are struggling with anxiety and depression. In order to help players cope with the current situation, Oxtoby told BBC sport that “It’s about trying to think outside the box in terms of how we support those players.”

“Linking in with the support network around them in a subtle way is probably the better avenue to go for.
“Sometimes just acknowledging that they’re struggling a little bit, even without labelling it, is all they need – just so they’re aware that you’re aware.”
It is uncertain whether the Women’s Super League season will be completed given the current situation, but suggestions for a revised campaign have been made, with the prospect of a six-week period to complete remaining matches behind closed doors, still a possibility. 

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