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College students have the highest prevalence of mental health challenges among any group in the U.S. College athletes are a unique population due to the extensive time commitment to their sport and the need to perform both physically and academically. The aim of this rapid review was to examine the mental health of both male and female collegiate athletes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association through the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and suicide.

Two databases, PubMed and PsycINFO, were searched in March and April 2022. Outcomes sought to examine the prevalence of depression, anxiety, and suicide in this population. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were leveraged to aid in screening titles, abstracts, and full articles based on inclusion or exclusion criteria. The final sample contained 6 studies.

Analysis found that college athletes had lower rates of suicide and suicidal ideation, and anxiety compared to non-athlete college students. Depression results were mixed with studies reporting athletes have similar rates of clinically relevant levels of depression as the general college population and that athletes had lower rates of clinically relevant depressive symptoms and lower rates of diagnosed depression.

The results suggest that athlete status is a protective factor against anxiety and suicide-related outcomes. However, the differing conclusions on the prevalence of depression in this population may suggest athlete status doesn’t protect against depressive symptoms. The mixed conclusions on the protective nature of athlete status suggest a need for further research.