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14 May 2019

Racing Welfare’s industry-wide mental health research published: “The industry needs to be aware of the impact that mental health has on the individuals involved”


  • The research was undertaken by Dr Will McConn-Palfreyman, Dr Martin Littlewood and Dr Mark Nesti of the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and was part funded by The Racing Foundation
  • Completed over the period of a year, the research focused on those working across all sectors of horseracing and Thoroughbred breeding
  • The data collection phase incorporated 131 face-to-face interviews and focus groups across the UK, in addition to an online survey which generated over 1500 responses

Conducted throughout 2018 and the beginning of 2019, the industry-wide research undertaken by the team at Liverpool John Moores University looked at the relationship between working in racing and mental health, and covered every profession in the industry, including both core and associate roles.  The findings are categorised into job sectors spanning each aspect of the sport and themes raised include both the positive and negative aspects of working in racing in terms of how they impact on the mental health of each cohort.

The report offers a number of actions for the industry to take forward, outlining both generic priority recommendations and those specific to different groups within the industry.  It states the importance of the racing industry not engaging in mental health issues for moral or paternalistic reasons alone, although this position is a starting point.  Moreover, that the industry needs to be aware of the impact that mental health has on the individuals involved, of the economic and productive fallout from poor or ill health, and also the legislative requirement to tackle issues in a robust and proactive manner.  Crucially, the report states that mental health requires a long term strategic approach to ensure all individuals working in racing are provided with the greatest capacity to enjoy and thrive through their work.

Dawn Goodfellow, Chief Executive of Racing Welfare, said

The driver for the study was to establish an objective picture of the mental health of people working in different sectors of the industry, not because we thought that racing necessarily had a problem with mental health.  It is clear from the findings that there are issues to be addressed, however, and the information outlined in the report offers guidance on the next steps, in order to make a tangible difference to the lives of participants from each of the different sectors.  We recognise that among the challenges that racing faces, devising a programme that is sustainable for all participants is key to the health of the industry.  Racing takes the mental health of its participants seriously and the level of engagement we have seen throughout this process is evidence of that.

The Executive Summary and the full report are available here.

The announcement of the research findings marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, a national initiative organised by the Mental Health Foundation which runs from 13th – 19th May.  As per 2018, Racing Welfare will lead racing’s response to the campaign, which looks to break down the stigma associated with mental health and encourage those who may be struggling to seek help.