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The COVID-19 pandemic created stressors that raised the likelihood of elite athletes experiencing mental health problems. Understanding how individual traits promote resilience is key to offering treatments specific to this population. This prospective study explores the relationship between mindfulness skills, resilience, and athletic identity on anxiety and depression. The initial assessment was during the first UK lockdown April-May 2020 (T1), and the second during the return to competition July-August 2020 (T2). The sample was 160 elite rugby players. Measures included: Personal Health Questionnaire-9, General Anxiety Disorder-7, Cognitive Affective Mindfulness Scale, Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale, and Athletic Identity Measurement. The prevalence of anxiety and depression was profiled with descriptive statistics, and relationships between variables with bi-variate correlations and forward stepwise regression modelling. Depression decreased significantly between lock down (T1) and return to competition (T2) (MT1 = 4.20, MT2 = 3.24, p < 0.01), with no significant change in anxiety. Significant correlations were found between mindfulness, resilience, and anxiety and depression (≤0.001). Regression showed that mindfulness (T1) predicted lower anxiety and depression during the return to competition (T2) after controlling for baseline mental health symptoms. Returning to competition after lockdown was associated with a reduction in depression but not anxiety. Mindfulness skills potentially confer protection against anxiety and depression.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Environ Res Public Health

Publication Date





anxiety, athlete, depression, elite sport, mindfulness, prospective study, Anxiety, Anxiety Disorders, COVID-19, Communicable Disease Control, Depression, Humans, Mindfulness, Pandemics, Prospective Studies, Rugby, SARS-CoV-2