Impact of Extracurricular Activities on Mental Health

Updated: Jul 25

ompetitive sports have shown to decrease symptoms pertaining to both anxiety and depression, while conjointly encouraging self-esteem [2].

Author: Arpana Wadhwani

With the beginning of a new semester year for many students, it is imperative to understand that extracurricular activities, though they may not appear to be at first glance, are an integral facet of academia and educational institutions. This article will help to understand the significance of belonging, acceptance, and connectedness among students, and how these are all cultivated beyond an academic classroom’s four walls via extracurriculars.

A recent study from the University of British Columbia enabled researchers to discover that group extracurricular activities — specifically sports teams — brought about mental health advantages as they fostered a sense of belonging among students [1]. Such research contributes to the finding that the interpersonal relationships established through team-based extracurricular activities is positively associated with emotional and psychological welfare [1].

Moreover, competitive sports have shown to decrease symptoms pertaining to both anxiety and depression, while conjointly encouraging self-esteem [2]. What is interesting to note is that such team-based sports are most positively correlated with instilling benefits to students’ mental health, as opposed to individual extracurriculars [1].

But what about other, non-sports extracurricular activities?

Sports teams have an evident benefit pertaining to the mental health and development of youth, but there is, in fact, a diverse range of clubs, events, organizations, and teams that bolster the emotions and psychological wellbeing of students [2]. To be more specific, arts-based extracurricular experiences have assumed a significant role in enabling the expression of emotions and the development of a sense of personal identity [2]. As a matter of fact, research has found that extracurricular activities revolving around music were positively associated with academic success [1]. There is also an evident benefit to partaking in scout groups and activities, as they emphasize providing social support and allows for the strengthening of community bonds and self-image [2].

With this in mind, it is important to consider that there are indeed countless potential experiences attached to teams and groups that foster the creation of a support system and help many students carve a place of their own. There is, after all, no cookie cutter method of making the most of extracurriculars.

It is apparent that extracurricular activities have clear positive impacts to student wellbeing and mental health, regardless of academic phase, and they contribute to a healthy developmental process [1]. Considering this, as students continue their academic journeys this year, they are highly encouraged to take advantage of all of the facilities and opportunities at their doorstep, no matter how unconventional they may be!

For students at the University of Ottawa who seek opportunities to become involved in more than simply an academic standard, they are encouraged to visit the CVUO website to explore the plethora of teams and organizations that they can be a part of! 

Editors

Ibrahim Alayche, Rhea Verma

Designer

Web design by Majd Al-Aarg

Additional Credits

Cover photo provided by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

References

  1. University of British Columbia [Internet]. Vancouver (BC): UBC Faculty of Medicine; c2020. Science says when kids participate in team-based extracurricular activities, they have better mental health; 2019 Aug 26. Available: https://www.med.ubc.ca/news/science-says-when-kids-participate-in-team-based-extracurricular-activities-they-have-better-mental-health/

  2. Ruvalcaba NA, Gallegos J, Borges A, & Gonzalez N. Extracurricular activities and group belonging as a protective factor in adolescence. Psicología Educativa [Internet]. 2017 Jun;23(1):45-51. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pse.2016.09.001

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