Can physical activity support young people after the death of a parent? The BABYSTEPS Project
Background: Annually, 41,000 UK children and young people are parentally bereaved. Grief is an individual process and must be supported properly. Many mental health aspects that cross over with grief outcomes (i.e. anxiety and depression) can be improved through physical activity. Yet there is limited research investigating whether physical activity can support bereaved individuals with their grief and what services are currently available. Methods: A systematic review of the literature (10 databases) and service provision (5 search engines) was performed. Empirical studies (qualitative and quantitative) had to explore physical activity (of any type) to help individuals (of any age) who had experienced a bereavement (of any human, other than national loss). Organisations which provide bereavement support to young people were contacted (via questionnaire and telephone) to record details about their service and if they offer physical activity support. Results: From 564 studies screened, 20 met the inclusion criteria, with 5 reporting using physical activity to support parental bereavement. Running and martial arts were noted as types of beneficial activity. Of the 373 organisations identified, 26 provided physical activity support (i.e. residential retreats, football) for bereaved young people. Conclusion: There is evidence that physical activity can support the wellbeing of young people who have been parentally bereaved. However, this evidence is limited, with just a small number of organisations offering physical activity. There is a clear need for more research and services to understand and increase the use of physical activity to support young people following the death of their parent.