By James Gamble via SWNS
Going to watch live sporting events can help to improve our well-being and makes us feel less lonely, a new study has found.
A survey of more than 7,000 adults showed that those who went to watch live sports - whether amateur or professional - scored better than those who didn't in terms of life satisfaction.
The large-scale study is the first ever to examine the benefits of attending sporting events.
It claims the effects on life feeling more "worthwhile" is comparable to the boost of gaining employment.
The groundbreaking study's authors say these boosts derive from live sport fostering "group identity" and a sense of "belonging."
The researchers, from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, believe attending sporting events could be used as an effective public health tool for improving loneliness and well-being.
The study's authors highlighted the fact that, though many current initiatives promote the benefits of physical participation in sports, few have previously studied the mental health benefits linked to watching live sporting events.
The academics from Anglia Ruskin University’s School of Psychology and Sport Science analyzed results from the Taking Part Survey, conducted between 2019 and 2020.
The survey quizzed 7,209 adults aged between 16 and 85 living in England and was commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The results showed that those who attended live sporting events scored higher in two major measurements of subjective well-being: life satisfaction and a sense of life feeling "worthwhile."
The size of the increase in life feeling worthwhile was so great it was even comparable to the boost of gaining employment.
Going to sporting matches, from local cricket and football teams to crucial games in the Premier League, also resulted in lower levels of loneliness.
These observations are even more prevalent when considered alongside previous studies, which found similar high life satisfaction scores to be associated with fewer life-limiting conditions and better physical health, successful ageing and lower mortality rates.
The study's lead author, Dr. Helen Keyes, hopes her team's research could help shape future public health strategies in the UK, like offering ticket price discounts to certain people.
Keyes explained: "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."
Just being in the crowd watching live sports improves our mental health whether your team wins or loses, Keyes claims.
Keyes said this was proof of the "powerful effect" of watching live sport.
“We know from other studies that when the team you support wins, we like to identify more strongly with our team, and this is particularly the case for supporters with low personal self-esteem," she said.
“In psychology, we call this ‘basking in reflected glory’ – it is a way of ‘latching on’ to the success of the team we support.
“In our own study, we showed something that perhaps taps into something else: that being in a crowd together with other fans improves some aspects of wellbeing and reduces loneliness across the board - regardless of whether the team won or lost.
“This shows a real powerful effect of being with others in support of a common purpose.”
Keyes added that though further studies on the differences in well-being between supporting different teams and the level the sport you watch is played at are needed, her team's study proved that live sport provided opportunities for social interaction available in few other settings.
She said: "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."
The study was published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Public Health.