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New study finds Special Olympic athletes suffer less often from depression


The Special Olympics program in Timmins offers eight sports programs throughout the year, such as curling.

“I’ve been curling since November so I throw the rock slowly to the centre of the ring to get our score," said Matt Exel, a Special Olympics athlete.

Health officials said a 20-year study in Ontario found young adults who participate in Special Olympic programs are 49 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with depression than their peers.

“Special Olympics has improved my life to such an extent that before then I was mostly in my house in my little office area on the computer and stuff but now I’m more active, I socialize with the community more," said Chris Exel, a Special Olympic athlete.

The research compared more than 51,000 young adults and is a first within the Special Olympics movement. Those studying the results said it demonstrates the positive impact of community-based sport programs on its athletes.

Some parents we spoke with agree with the findings and said it has also helped them.

“Right now at this point in my life, now that my young men are involved with Special Olympics, I feel like the soccer mum that I always wanted to be because when my children were small, the behaviour of course with autism, it was over the top," said Karen Exel, parent of Chris and Matt.

“So it’s very hard to get involved with community activities when you’re constantly chasing behaviours.”

Rob Galloway's son, Jason, 46, enjoys golfing and curling.

"To have him cheerful and wanting to go somewhere ... ready to go out the door and get in the truck to come to the curling rink, that’s really helpful when you see your child and how much they’re enjoying it,” Galloway said.

Researches said reasons why depression rates were lower are not well understood at this time. They do suggest, though, that programs like Special Olympics improve mood, mastery of skill and promote the development of friendships. Top Stories


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