A team of university researchers is looking for veterans and active Canadian soldiers, including those from Edmonton, to participate in a study on how physical activity builds connections.
The research stems from a pilot study set up in Vancouver before the pandemic. It explores using sports as a means of supporting veterans, said University of British Columbia research lead Mark Beauchamp.“For many, and in particular, men who are reluctant to seek out support, if you say to them, do you want any help with mental health stuff or any general support, many will just say no due to stigma and so on,” he said.
“So we set this up as a sport-based program with a simple idea of just turn up, sweat, have fun, and socially connect.”
From the pilot, researchers found there was a shared sense of identity among veterans and active soldiers. Conversations around topics like employment and counseling were normalized.
The wider study, through the Purpose After Service through Sport (PASS) program, will be conducted in nine locations with a military presence across the country — Edmonton, Esquimalt, B.C., Shilo, Man., Kingston, Ont., Montreal, Valcartier, Que., and Gagetown, N.B. The study will be evaluated as part of a randomized trial.
“We’re able to randomize participants both to receive the program but also to a waitlist control where they’ll get the program six months down the line, and then we administer a range of assessments,” Beauchamp said.
The primary goal is to look at participants’ psychological well-being, but researchers will also assess secondary measures like fitness.
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“By randomizing participants to these different conditions and evaluating this program as part of that sort of study design, we’re able to really get at, does this program actually work?” Beauchamp said.
“Does it actually help people? And also by running this, we’re able to evaluate whether there should be tweaking or revising or if there are certain things that need to be adapted in different geographical locations.”
The study will recruit through April, starting in May, and last six months, with the hope that if the program is found to be sustainable, it would be extended once the study is complete.