Research

In 2011 I completed the M.Sc. Sports and Exercise Medicine at the University of Bath School for Health. My thesis was on the topic of addiction in endurance athletes, titled:

Sensation Seeking and Addiction in Triathletes and Alcoholics

The abstract read:

Triathlon is the fastest growing sport in the UK with 13000 people, in 2010, taking part in the largest triathlon in the world, in London. This is a cross sectional study comparing the prevalence and association of five variables- Sensation Seeking General Score (SSS), Thrill and Adventure Seeking (TAS), Experience Seeking (ES), Disinhibition (DIS) and Boredom Susceptibility (BS) (Zuckerman SSS-V) between alcoholics, triathletes and controls. The hypothesis was that triathletes would score higher than controls and that there would be no significant difference compared to alcoholics. The second hypothesis was that the scores on the Exercise Addiction Inventory would show some relation to the Sensation Seeking scores. The third hypothesis was that there would be some triathletes who would be more addicted than others and they could be compared to a similar group of highly addicted alcoholics.

241 people completed the online questionnaire. 107 of the participants scored 5 or more on the AUDIT-C and were therefore excluded. 134 triathletes are included in the analysis. The triathletes and alcoholics scored significantly higher than controls over all 5 scores and triathletes scored signicantly higher than alcoholics on the TAS score. There was some significant difference between males and females over the DIS and TAS scores. The Pearsons Correlation between EAI and SSS showed a small but significant correlation (p<0.001). This shows that exercise addiction does relate to the personality trait of sensation seeking and that higher scores on the EAI correlate with higher sensation seeking scores. The ANOVA run on the groups of high and low addicted triathletes and the high and low addicted alcoholics showed highly significant difference on sensation seeking across the four groups (p<0.001). Post hoc analysis of these figures showed significant differences in sensation seeking between high and low triathletes and between high and low alcoholics and between highly addicted triathletes and low addicted alcoholics (p<0.05).

This study concludes that the sensation seeking trait is seen in triathletes and therefore postulates that triathlon may be used as a therapy in treating other addictions. It warns however that there are a small group of people who are more vulnerable to developing a severe addiction and that athletes should be observed for signs of eating disorders, alcohol misuse or other addictions.