A new study led by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) has found that attending live sporting events can improve levels of wellbeing and reduce feelings of loneliness. While previous research has focused mostly on specific sports or small population samples, this is the first large-scale study to examine the health benefits of attending any type of live sporting event.
The scientists used data from 7,209 British adults (aged 16-85) who participated in the Taking Part Survey, a large initiative focused on people’s engagement with sports, arts, libraries, museum and galleries, and heritage.
The analysis revealed that individuals attending live sporting events scored higher in two major measurements of subjective wellbeing – life satisfaction and a sense of life being worthwhile – while experiencing less loneliness. Since higher life satisfaction scores are known to be linked to better physical and mental health, successful aging, and lower mortality rates, these findings could have important implications for public health.
While many current initiatives promote the health benefits of physical participation in sports, this study provides clear evidence that watching live sporting events could also offer an accessible and effective tool to improve wellbeing and reduce loneliness.
“Previous research has focused on specific sports or small population samples, such as college students in the United States. 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,” said lead author Helen Keyes, the Head of the School of Psychology and Sport Science at ARU.
“The live events covered by the survey ranged from free amateur events, such as watching village sports teams, right through to Premier League football matches. Therefore, further research needs to be carried out to see if these benefits are more pronounced for elite level sport, or are more closely linked to supporting a specific team.”
“However, we do know that watching live sport 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 wellbeing,” she concluded.
The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.
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