Håkansson A, Jönsson C, Kenttä G
Int J Environ Res Public Health 17 (18) - [2020-09-14; online 2020-09-14]
COVID-19 and lockdown strategies may affect mental health and addictive behavior differently in the population, and elite athletes are among the professions clearly affected by the pandemic. This study in top elite athletes aimed to study current perceived psychological influence from COVID-19 and symptoms of depression, anxiety and changes in alcohol drinking, gambling behavior and problem gambling in the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown. This web survey included athletes in top leagues of soccer, ice hockey and handball in Sweden (N = 327, 62% men). A total of 66% and 51% were worried about the future of their sport or about their own future in sports, respectively. Feeling worse psychologically during the pandemic was common (72% of women, 40% of men, p < 0.001); depression criteria were endorsed by 19% of women and three percent of men (p < 0.001); anxiety criteria by 20% of women and five percent of men (p < 0.001). Reporting increased gambling during the pandemic was associated with gambling problem severity. Moderate-risk or problem gambling was seen in 10% of men and none of the women (p < 0.001). Depression and anxiety were associated with feeling worse during the COVID-19 pandemic and with concern over one's own sports future. In conclusion, COVID-19-related distress is common in elite athletes and associated with mental health symptoms. Gambling increase during the pandemic was rare, but related to gambling problems, which were common in male athletes. The calls for increased focus on COVID-19-related concerns in athletes and on problem gambling in male athletes.