Playing football can boost mental health, nurse research finds

Playing football can have a positive impact on people with mental health conditions like schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, nurse-led research has found

Playing football can have a positive impact on people with mental health conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, nurse-led research has found.

A football programme, aimed at people who have mental health conditions has been approved as
a positive motivator in a new study. Picture: iStock

The joint project between nurse academics at Abertay University, Dundee, NHS Tayside and NHS Fife sees regular five-a-side football and walking football sessions (a slower version of the game) to people who have experience of mental health conditions

The teams compete in mental health football leagues and the sessions are coordinated by health professionals including nurses, physiotherapists, plus volunteers and sports coaches.

A study of the programme, which started in December 2015, found participants reported a range of positive benefits from the sessions, including an enhanced ability to form and sustain relationships and friendships,  improved fitness and health, and a feeling of peer support from teammates.


Emma Lamont, a lecturer in Abertay University's division of mental health nursing and counselling, said: 'These are specifically mental health football teams for service users who play as an aspect of care.

'They compete in mental health leagues in Scotland and talked about going to these tournaments as a big motivator for them – they were proud of what they achieved.'

'If someone is acutely unwell and in hospital they can come to play football as therapy.'

NHS funding

The football sessions are funded through the NHS with local authority support and include males and females age 18 to 60.

At the beginning of the research, Ms Lamont held focus groups with the teams and asked an extensive range of questions.

She said: 'Some of the men had been quite successful in football when they were younger and were in teams before mental health problems started and took away the chance to pursue a professional career, so being able to access these teams is huge for them.


'They really talked like this was life-changing and there was a real team-spirit and camaraderie developed through these sessions.

'Many of them would go for a drink or a curry together, forming a lasting relationship.'

Ms Lamont is due to present the findings to the Finnish Association for Mental Health when it visits Scotland on 3 April.

She will also speak about Abertay’s masters programme in mental health nursing and mental health, a CPD module in recovery and self-management, and an undergraduate nursing programme that develops mental health recovery nurses.

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