A systematic review of the mental health impacts of sport and physical activity programmes for adolescents in post-conflict settings

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Despite the international furore surrounding the use of sport for assisting conflict-affected populations, there is not yet convincing evidence of its efficacy as a mental health intervention.

Children and adolescents exposed to violent conflict are at high risk of developing mental health problems. Sport and physical activity is increasingly incorporated in post-conflict assistance for young people. Implementing agencies make a broad array of health claims for which there is currently a fragmented evidence base. The purpose of this review was to summarise the impact evidence for sport and physical activity based programmes on the mental health of adolescents in post-conflict settings, and highlight the limitations of current practice. There is a shortage of high-quality and available information, which limits the strength of conclusions that can be drawn; future evaluation and research should aim to identify the mechanisms and processes behind the intended impact of interventions, as well as further programme testing, investment in innovation and impact evaluation.

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