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'Relentless' racing programme impacting riders' health, report finds

86.67 per cent of jockeys were either currently experiencing stress, anxiety or depression, or had done in the past 12 months
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The toll the relentless nature of the racing calendar takes on its participants was laid bare on Monday when an industry-wide study into mental health highlighted some findings the British Horseracing Authority labelled as "stark".

Research – carried out by Liverpool John Moores University and published in association with charity Racing Welfare – revealed 86.67 per cent of jockeys were either currently experiencing stress, anxiety or depression, or had done so in the past 12 months.

 Mental health special report

That is significantly higher than in other areas within racing. A total of 79.25 per cent in the stud sector suffered from the same issues, as did 74.55 per cent of trainers, 71.99 per cent of stable staff or 62.74 per cent of wider racing workers.

Problems linked to alcohol use were also highlighted, with 13.33 per cent of jockeys experiencing an issue in the past year. A total of 41.38 per cent of riders felt a perceived social stigma of being viewed negatively for using mental health services might have influenced whether they sought help.

The report recommended a review of the fixture list in relation to the workforce capacity it services.

It stated: "It was noted by respondents and those interviewed that racing is a relentless industry which, for many, has intensified over the last number of years. Such a pace may be unsustainable psychologically for a number of sectors and individuals within the racing fraternity."

Other recommendations included a review of injury and pain management systems in relation to mental health, inclusive provision beyond the racing centres, risk assessments relating to workplace stress, plus increased awareness and support around working time regulations.

The Professional Jockeys Association said the report reiterated that "the demands of servicing the fixture list are taking a significant toll".

Will Lambe: the BHA executive director is heading up a three-part strategy for staff retention

The BHA described some findings as "stark" and affirmed it is fully committed to tackling the issue of mental health.

Will Lambe, executive director at the BHA, said: “The British Horseracing Authority, as the sport’s governing body, welcomes the publication of this important report. It is essential the sport shines a light on what is a major societal issue, and better understand how it impacts on the British racing and breeding industry.

“Throughout its leadership and full workforce the BHA is entirely committed to playing its part in tackling this issue, and it is for this reason that the BHA was keen to support this project from the outset.

“It is very important that everyone in racing should focus on the content of this report and understand and consider the implications for their own area. There are some stark findings, and the report clearly highlights that steps need to be taken to better support the mental health of our participants and diverse workforce.

“Different parts of our industry face different – and sometimes competing – challenges, and, as ever, the industry must work together to deliver a strategy which meets the varied needs of everyone within the sport.”

The report was based on data collected through face-to-face interviews, a questionnaire completed by over 1,500 people and focus groups involving 131 individuals. 

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It is very important that everyone in racing should focus on the content of this report
E.W. Terms