By John Salak –
It is easy for some to think of sporting events—football, baseball, basketball, soccer, etc.—as venues for the insane. The type of places where people drink too much, scream and or swear at the players or umpires on the field and maybe get into fights with just about anybody. After all, the term “fan” comes from the word “fanatic.”
Well, maybe all the poor press these events get isn’t warranted. Perhaps there is a health benefit that comes from attending these events—provided, of course, you’re not one of the individuals who get drunk, start swearing and throwing fists and are eventually escorted out of the stadium by police. Academics at Britain’s Anglia Ruskin University’s School of Psychology and Sport Science think so. They report that attending live sporting events improves levels of well-being and reduces feelings of loneliness.
The report is especially amazing since it comes out of Britain, which has a notorious history of football (soccer) hooliganism that dates back to the Middle Ages and came into international prominence over the last 60 years.
The British researchers, nonetheless, claim that attending live sporting events results in higher scores for two major measurements of subjective well-being—life satisfaction and a sense of “life being worthwhile.” It also lowers levels of loneliness. The gain in feeling worthwhile was comparable to that of landing a long-sought job.
In what is reported to be the first large-scale research project to examine the benefits of attending sporting events, the research team studied data from 7,209 adults, aged 16-85, living in England who participated in the British Government’s Taking Part Survey.
The results were seen as particularly significant as previous studies have shown that higher life satisfaction scores are associated with fewer life-limiting conditions and better physical health, successful aging and lower mortality rates.
“Previous research has focused on specific sports or small population samples, such as college students in the United States,” said lead author Dr Helen Keyes. “Ours is the first study to look at the benefits of attending any sporting event across an adult population, and therefore our findings could be useful for shaping future public health strategies, such as offering reduced ticket prices for certain groups.
The study covered both professional and amateur events but didn’t differentiate between the two. As a result, Keyes acknowledged that more research is needed to determine if the wellness benefits are impacted by watching elite athletic events or are more closely linked to supporting a specific team
“However, we do know that watching live sports of all types provides many opportunities for social interaction and this helps to forge group identity and belonging, which in turn mitigates loneliness and boosts levels of well-being,” she said.
The bottom line: being fanatical may just have its benefits.