Winning the Game

How Sport for Development supports the psychological well-being of adolescent refugees

Adolescents playing sport


In 2022, UNHCR estimated that 103 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide; in the same year, UNICEF further reported that 37 million of those displaced were children. Children and adolescents are more likely to have specific needs and vulnerabilities within the broader refugee population, which may affect their psychological well-being.

In view of this, UNICEF Innocenti – Global Office of Research and Foresight and the Barça Foundation teamed up to investigate how Sport for Development (S4D) can be a positive intervention in the lives of refugee adolescents. The mixed-methods study was conducted in 2022 in two locations in Greece: Athens and the island of Lesvos, capturing the mental health profile of adolescent refugees (ages 11-19) and the key mechanisms of an S4D programme that may influence their psychological well-being. It builds upon previous research jointly carried out by the two organizations, providing key insights to improve the effectiveness of S4D programming (especially programmes that engage with young refugee populations), as well as recommendations for governments and donors that support S4D.

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Michelle Mills; Despina Karamperidou; Faith Martin
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