Term of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Jeff Klibert

Committee Member 1

Dorthie Cross

Committee Member 2

Nicholas Holtzman


Depression is significant public health concern in the United States (NIMH, 2019). Previous research identifies sport participation as a protective factor against depressive symptoms (Babiss & Gangwisch, 2009). However, recent literature suggests this relationship is complex and may be moderated by mental toughness. Particularly, mental toughness may enhance the protective qualities of sport participation in a way that minimizes depressive concerns. In addition, protective processes are thought to vary by individuals residing in different locations (rural vs. non-rural). Therefore, the main aim of the current study was to evaluate whether mental toughness and rural status moderate the relationship between sport participation and depression in a sample of community athletes. Five hundred ninety-seven community adults recruited from MTurk completed an online survey. Results revealed reported Rural Status and SES Status differences in sport participation, mental toughness, and depression. Specifically, individuals residing in rural areas reported comparable levels of sports participation, lower levels of mental toughness, and higher rates of depression compared to non-rural participants. Individuals who reported high SES statuses reported slightly more sports participation, comparable levels of mental toughness, and higher levels of depression. With regard to the overarching moderated model, results highlighted a significant 3-way interaction (Sport Participation x Mental Toughness x Rural Status) effect in accounting for depression scores. When deconstructing this effect further, results indicated that mental toughness moderated the relationship between sport participation and depression for rural community athletes only. Moreover, the pattern of the interaction effect was more consistent with a protective model rather than a promotive model; at higher levels of mental toughness, the positive relationship between sports participation and depression dissipated. Clinical implications are offered regarding how mental toughness interventions can bolster well-being among rural athletes.

OCLC Number


Research Data and Supplementary Material