Former jockeys more likely to suffer mental health problems than general public *H&H Plus*

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  • As a study has highlighted the need for more mental health support for former jockeys, a five-year £2.3m grant for jockey development and support has been approved

    More mental health support for retired jockeys is needed, a study by the University of Oxford and the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has highlighted.

    The research found former jockeys are more than 2.5 times as likely to have anxiety or depression, and six times as likely to suffer from bone and joint problems than the general population.

      The news comes as an application for £2.3m funding for jockey development and support was approved. The five-year grant from the Racing Foundation was secured in a joint bid by the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA), Jockeys Education and Training Scheme and the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF).

    A new cross-industry mental health working group comprising the PJA, IJF and the BHA will also be formed this year.

    “Understanding the impact a career in racing has later in life is key to developing interventions and support for new and current jockeys,” said principal investigator Julia Newton. “We now understand that bone health in jockeys is negatively affected throughout their careers, as newly licensed jockeys and in retirement.

    “The increased frequency of painful joint arthritis in retirement will help further inform how the industry can reduce and manage injury during jockey careers. The findings on mental health add to increasing evidence in this area, already being addressed by further work supported by the Racing Foundation and the racing industry.”

    Work is ongoing on nutritional and mental health support for jockeys, but the grant means this can be increased, with more coaching.

    Regular check-ups for non-injured riders, an extension of jockey coaching and PR training in how riders can best promote themselves — within and outside racing — are among new initiatives.

    “The life of a jockey is a tough one and more than 100 jockeys have accessed our mental health support services,” said PJA chief executive Paul Struthers.

    The PJA’s confidential helpline, run with Cognacity, was set up in 2015 as part of the organisation’s support network.

    Mr Struthers added: “While we are pleased more jockeys are coming forward to use the services, it has placed significant pressure on budgets. We are therefore delighted this grant will enable us to continue to meet demands, offer more proactive, preventative services and expand our provision to retired jockeys.”

    There has been no major research focusing on mental health in other individual equestrian disciplines, but wider studies have highlighted a need for greater research and support.

    A 2014 Mind study found elite sportspeople fear admitting to mental health problems will affect their careers (news, 7 May 2015).

    In a 2017 British Grooms’ Association online survey, 98% of 1,300 respondents said the equestrian industry is not doing enough to support their mental health and wellbeing. This led to the launch of the Grooms’ Minds support platform.

    Study Mental health in equestrian sport was published in the May 2018 edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of clinical sport psychology.

    “Further studies with a focus on specific disciplines, expertise levels and/or groups (for example instructors or athletes) would provide insight into the subtle inter-discipline differences in perspectives, so expanding the development of targeted education and intervention,” it recommended.


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