Mental health difficulties among professional jockeys: A narrative review

Lewis King, Sarah Jane Cullen, Adrian McGoldrick, Jennifer Pugh, Giles Warrington, Gary Woods, Ciara Losty

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction Emerging academic literature and high-profile disclosures of mental health difficulties and mental illness from current and former professional jockeys suggest that further exploration of the mental health of jockeys is required. To date, a comprehensive review of jockeys' mental health has yet to be conducted. Objectives To examine the existing literature related to jockeys' mental health, including the prevalence of symptoms associated with mental health difficulties and help-seeking. Design A narrative review of the literature was conducted with articles screened from inception until January 2021. Results Sixteen studies were included in the narrative review. Studies covered a range of mental health difficulties which included mood (depression), anxiety, distress, disordered eating and substance misuse. Rates of help-seeking among jockeys were also explored. Results indicated that jockeys reported higher levels of depressive and anxiety symptoms compared with other elite athletes. Substance misuse, in particular adverse alcohol use, also appears greater among jockeys than other elite athletes. Distress symptoms appear comparable with other elite athletes. Risk factors for mental health difficulties included injury, perceived stress, athlete burnout, career dissatisfaction and the contemplation of retirement. Weight-making negatively impacts jockeys' mood and attitudes towards eating, with lower competitive riding weights associated with more disordered eating attitudes. Moreover, help-seeking from mental health professionals appears low. Conclusion The review identifies a high prevalence of symptoms of mental health difficulties among professional jockeys. Applied recommendations and future research considerations are proposed throughout the review article.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere001078
JournalBMJ Open Sport and Exercise Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2021


  • athlete
  • horse racing
  • review


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