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Keywords:

  • Activity level;
  • health psychology;
  • mental health;
  • intervention;
  • resilience

Background:  Physical activity programmes have been identified as a potential strategy for improving social and emotional well-being in at-risk youth, who have a prevalence of depression and low self-esteem exceeding the general population.

Methods:  A systematic search of six electronic databases (EMBASE, OVID MEDLINE, PsychINFO, PubMed, Scopus and SPORTDiscus) was conducted to identify physical activity programmes designed to improve social and emotional well-being in at-risk youth.

Results:  The search identified 15 studies, which reported the effects of three types of physical activity programmes (i.e. outdoor adventure, sport and skill-based and physical fitness programmes) on social and emotional well-being. While many of the interventions resulted in significant positive effects, the risk of bias was high in all of the included studies.

Conclusion:  Due to the mixed findings and the high risk of bias, it is difficult to determine the efficacy of physical activity programmes for improving social and emotional well being in at-risk youth.