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The impact of sexism on psychophysiology, performance and wellbeing in female athletes: a mixed methods approach

The impact of sexism on psychophysiology, performance and wellbeing in female athletes: a mixed methods approach

O’Kelly, Jessica and Rossato, Claire ORCID: 0000-0003-0306-5435 (2023) The impact of sexism on psychophysiology, performance and wellbeing in female athletes: a mixed methods approach. In: Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity Annual Conference June 1st – 3rd 2023. Toronto, Ontario Canada, 45 . Human Kinetics, Washington, S100-S100. ISSN 0895-2779 (Print), 1543-2904 (Online) (doi:

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The prevalence of sexism in sporting environments has been well-documented and its impact on performance and wellbeing is a topic of concern. While the psychophysiological response evoked by exposure to sexism is pertinent to athletic performance, it remains under-explored. In the present study, a mixed-methods design was chosen to understand the multifaceted effects of exposure to sexism on psychophysiology, performance, and wellbeing among female athletes. The study employed a convergent parallel within-subject design, in which female athletes (N = 15, (Mage =27.21, SD = 7.49) were exposed to sexist stimuli via a video while their heart rate variability (HRV) was measured. A repeated-measures ANOVA was used to determine differences between control, baseline, and experimental conditions. Post-hoc tests identified that high frequency HRV was significantly lower in the experimental condition (M = 24.99, SD = 3.64) compared to the control condition (M = 28.55, SD = 5.07), t(14) = -3.75, p = .002. Results indicated that exposure to sexism reduces parasympathetic activity, indicating an anxious response. In the qualitative phase, open-ended questions were used to explore the influence of sexism on performance and wellbeing. Thematic analysis identified that performance was impacted due to the presence of systemic barriers to progression via a lack of opportunities and a widespread focus on appearance rather than athleticism. Mental skills such as concentration and motivation were also affected. Wellbeing was affected due to the impact on identity from the internalisation of chronic diminishment. Female athletes identified how exposure to sexism impacts their mental health, specifically, the presence of anxiety, depression and eating disorder symptoms. Although limitations are present, the convergence of findings on the damaging impact of sexism on female athletes highlights the need for increased awareness and the development of interventions tailored to address these issues. Sports psychologists may consider incorporating self-compassion as an efficacious intervention.

Item Type: Conference Proceedings
Title of Proceedings: Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords: female; psychophysiology; athletes
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC1200 Sports Medicine
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > School of Human Sciences (HUM)
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Last Modified: 15 Sep 2023 13:12

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