Investigating the Relationship Between Campus Characteristics and Help-seeking Behaviours in Canadian Varsity Student-Athletes


Compared to the general population, university student-athletes exhibit mental health issues at a similar or higher rates (Sullivan et al., 2019; Wolanin et al., 2016). Despite this, research suggests that help-seeking rates for athletes continue to remain significantly lower than their non-athlete peers (Edwards & Froehle, 2023). Stigma, sport culture and other contextual factors may be significant reasons for these help-seeking trends in university athletes (Uphill et al., 2016). This research aims to investigate these contextual factors by exploring help-seeking behaviours of varsity student-athletes as they relate to campus characteristics. This study analyzed 52,326 (1,845 varsity) students in the Canadian subset of the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) from data collected in the Spring 2019. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression models compared campus characteristics and varsity status as they relate to help-seeking rates. Results indicate significantly lower rates of general (40.7% vs. 46.5%) and future (76.9% vs. 80.0%) help-seeking for varsity students. However, campus help-seeking rates are slightly higher for varsity students (21.1% vs. 19.9%). Additionally, varsity athletes were 38.7% less likely to seek help on larger campuses (>20k students) compared to smaller campuses (<5k students). Among varsity athletes, enrollment status (part/full time) and living arrangements (on/off campus) had no effect on any help-seeking rates. Results suggest that there may be contextual factors present in smaller campuses that positively affect help-seeking rates among varsity athletes. Additionally, when varsity athletes do seek help, it’s more likely to be on campus, emphasizing the importance of readily available campus mental health resources.