Relative age effects are (mostly) absent among Canadian Olympic athletes

Christopher J. Coady and David J. Hancock

Memorial University of Newfoundland


Coady, C.J., Hancock, D.J. (2023). Relative age effects are (mostly) absent among Canadian Olympic athletes. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 54(5), 422-433. doi:10.7352/IJSP.2023.54.422


The relative age effect (RAE; when one’s birthdate leads to participation or performance advantages over their peers) has been studied among many groups, but one that is largely understudied is elite amateur athletes. The purpose of this study was to investigate the prevalence of RAEs among Canadian Olympians to better understand the pervasiveness of RAEs and long-term selection advantages. Participants included 1461 Canadian Olympic athletes across 54 sports who competed between 2004 and 2018. Birthdates were converted into quartiles based on the selection year for each sport. Chi-square was used to compare the observed distribution of birthdates with the expected distribution. Analyses indicated that the RAE was mostly absent within the sample. A lone outlier was female ice hockey players, where the RAE was present with an overrepresentation of athletes born in the second quartile of the selection year. Our discussion draws connections to existing explanations of RAEs.

Keywords: Canada, Elite Sport, Birth Distribution, Birth Quartiles