Date of Award

Spring 3-11-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

EdD Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Thomas Shea, D.Sc.

Committee Member

Jennifer Timmer, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Omegna, Ed.D.


extracurricular activities, depression, high school, mental health, adolescent, school-sponsored activities


A growing number of adolescents are affected by depression, anxiety, and suicide each year, with females experiencing higher rates than males. Meanwhile, the demand for students’ time is increasing, and many participate in more extracurricular activities. This study will help answer the questions, “to what extent does participation in school-sponsored extracurricular activities impact an adolescent’s mental health?”, “to what extent does this impact vary by the type of activity?”, and “to what extent do these outcomes vary by gender?” While other studies have considered each of these variables, none look closely at all three (participation, gender, and type of activity) and their association with mental health.

This dissertation uses publicly available secondary quantitative data from a 2018 study by Monitoring the Future, published through the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). This study pulls from 12th-grade students’ four self-reported Likert statements (scored from 1-5) about life satisfaction, combined to create a composite score for depression. Students were also asked their level of involvement in six different extracurricular activities categories (newspaper and yearbook, academic clubs, athletics, student government, performing arts, and other activities). Multiple covariates are used, including parent education as a proxy for SES, race, parental involvement, students’ academic performance, whether they enjoy school, their weekly hours at a part-time job, and how much time they volunteer and engage in sports or exercise outside of school.

Findings suggest that the results vary by both activity and gender; however, this study’s limitations prevent causal claims from being made. School districts are encouraged to continue promoting extracurricular activities, specifically ones that promote positive mental health. Future studies on this topic should be conducted to improve these findings, guided by the limitations and suggestions for future research outlined in this study.