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Student-Athlete Health and Wellness Study Findings Revealed at NCAA Convention

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Overall drug use among student-athletes is down and a fewer number of student-athletes are reporting mental health concerns than they did several years ago during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, binge drinking has dropped to a historic low and tobacco use among student-athletes is also on the decline.

Those are among the many findings included in the NCAA Student-Athlete Health and Wellness Study that was revealed this week at the NCAA Convention that has converged in Phoenix. 

Thousands of student-athletes, coaches and administrators have gathered at the convention to discuss and debate a wide-range of topics impacting collegiate sports including Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging  (DEIB)  and Name, Image and Likeness (NIL).

In the aftermath of the pandemic, the student-athlete survey, which was administered by NCAA faculty athletic representatives (FAR), reveal the attitudes of more than 23,000 student-athletes across all three NCAA divisions. G Dl Unr W8 A Ar 6 M

Approximately 60% of men student-athletes and 69% of women student-athletes have said that they believe that there are adequate support systems on campus to help them access mental health services. Additionally, 70% of men student-athletes and 59% of women student-athletes said that they believe that their coaches care about their mental well-being. 

"Getting an accurate understanding of what student-athletes are experiencing — directly from them — is vitally important to help member schools better serve the students on their campuses," said Dr. Tom Paskus, NCAA managing director of research, who joined  other NCAA representatives at a session that focused on the survey results. "The NCAA and our research partners, including NCAA faculty athletics representatives, devote substantial time and energy to conducting student-athlete well-being surveys because they allow us to examine important issues such as mental health trends over time. Having tens of thousands of respondents allows us to really dig deep into concerns we see in particular sports or within particular demographic groups.”

There was great variance, however, on other issues including how student-athletes viewed their body image. While 67% of women student-athletes said that they were “about the right weight” for their sport, 45% of them said that they were looking to lose weight.  

“Regardless of the sport, women are actively trying to lose weight even though two-thirds admit that they’re probably the right weight for their sport,” said Dr. Lydia Bell, director of research and policy for the NCAA.

Bell said that a growing number of men student-athletes (85%) said that they would intervene in a situation if it could lead to unwanted sexual behavior. That number—up from 63% in 2012 is deeply encouraging, said Bell. 

“It’s great to see this increase in men willing to intervene in this space,” said Bell, adding that when it comes to bystander intervention, 91% of men student-athletes and 95% of women student-athletes said that they would accompany a teammate home if they’s had too much to drink. 

Jeff Williams, assistant athletic director for health and wellness at Wayne State University, said he is hopeful about much of the survey data revealed during the session, but cautioned that it's important to remain vigilant. 

“I do feel it is encouraging that universities are making positive gains for supporting student-athletes,” he said, but wonders if another national catastrophe occurred like COVID-19, would the data reveal a downward spiral. 

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