In many aspects organized sport is considered to be one of the most important health promoting activities in young people’s life. Furthermore, there are commonly held expectations that organized sport
leads to a healthy lifestyle also in adulthood. A lot of studies have been conducted on youth sport from different perspectives (1, 2), but less research has focused on investigating the longitudinal
relationships between youth sports and health related states and habits later in life.
To investigate longitudinal relationships between involvement in organized youth sport and health related outcomes (HRO) in adult age (20-28 years; M=24.6 years).
Using a questionnaire, retrospective-, cross-sectional- and longitudinal data from 1212 boys and girls (M=13.9 years) were collected at three waves (T1-T3, 2005-2007), of which 300 (25%) were followed
up eight years later (T4, 2015). In order to consider the dimensions of breadth (number of organized sports), intensity (hours spent in organized sports per normal week) and duration (total number of
years spent in organized sports), a sport involvement index (SI) was calculated. Controlling for sex, ethnicity, subjective socioeconomic status and economic situation at T4, a series of multiple
hierarchical regression analyses were used to test the longitudinal effects of SI at T3 on series of HRO at T4. The different dimensions of HRO (self-esteem, athletic competence, social competence,
psychosomatic symptoms, general health, alcohol, smoking, physical activity and sedentariness) were measured by using validated instruments.
Results showed that SI at T3, significantly predicted athletic competence (β=.32, p<.001, ES=.10), social competence (β=.14; p=.021, ES=.02), smoking (β= –.12; p=.006, ES=.02), physical activity
(β=.22; p<.001; ES=.05) and sedentariness (β=.12; p=.041, ES=.01) at T4.
No apparent health related effects (i.e., general health, psychosomatic symptoms) were observed. However, results indicated that there are small indirect health related effects in adulthood, which can
be tracked to involvement in youth sport eight years earlier. Considering the rather small effect sizes (3) shown in this study the findings highlight the importance of presenting a nuanced picture of
the role youth sports play in health related issues in early adulthood.
(1) Wold, B., Duda, J. L., Balaguer, I., Smith, O. R. F., Ommundsen, Y., Hall, H. K., ... & Castillo, I. (2013). Comparing self-reported leisure-time physical activity, subjective health, and life
satisfaction among youth soccer players and adolescents in a reference sample. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 11(4), 328-340.
(2) Martinsen, M., & Sundgot‐Borgen, J. (2014). Adolescent elite athletes’ cigarette smoking, use of snus, and alcohol. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in sports, 24(2), 439-446.
(3) Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112(1), 155.