It’s official. Being active and involved with sporting clubs increases the mental health and emotional wellbeing of Australia’s university students.

New research from Griffith University has found students who participate in higher levels of physical activity and engage with sporting clubs are less inclined to suffer from mental health issues.

The study of 2300 students across five major Australian universities found 25% of participants had been diagnosed with a mental health issue by a health professional.

It found females, aged between 17 and 25, who smoke and drink more than 10 standard alcoholic drinks a week, are inactive and come from a lower socio-economic background, are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health issues.

“Such an ongoing high prevalence of mental health diagnosis amongAustralia’s university students provides clear evidence for this being an ‘at-risk’ population,’’ said lead researcher Dr Wayne Usher from the School of Education and Professional Studies.

“The data clearly shows those Australia’s university students who are positive about and participate in higher levels of physical activity and sporting clubs, are generally happier and display better resilience and body image indicators.”

Dr Usher said the study indicated there were ongoing challenges with Australia’s university students’ mental health and emotional wellbeing.

“Such poor, continuing mental health trends erode the fabric of society’s creative, productive and economic potential. It’s predicted to be the direct cause of an estimated $16 trillion lost from the world’s economy in the next 20 years.”

It is hoped the research will provide evidential base line data to increase awareness and provide an opportunity for Australia’s university and community health services, sporting organisations and the fitness industry to develop and implement future effective and collaborative health promoting strategies and campaigns.

Dr Usher will present his findings at a Griffith University education research conference on Thursday, June 1 at South Bank campus.