Summary: Attending sports events has a positive impact on two measures of well-being; it helps improve life satisfaction and also reduces feelings of loneliness.
Source: Anglia Ruskin University
New scientific research has found that attending live sporting events improves levels of well-being and reduces feelings of loneliness.
Published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, the research is the first large-scale study to examine the benefits of attending any type of live sporting event.
The study, carried out by academics from Anglia Ruskin University’s School of Psychology and Sport Science, used data from 7,209 adults, aged 16-85, living in England who participated in the Taking Part Survey, which was commissioned by the British Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
It found that attending live sporting events results in higher scores of two major measurements of subjective well-being – life satisfaction and a sense of “life being worthwhile” – as well as lower levels of loneliness.
These results are 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.
The new study also found that attending live sporting events leads to an increase in people’s sense that “life is worthwhile”, and the size of this increase is comparable to that of gaining employment.
Many initiatives currently promote the benefits of physical participation in sport, but the researchers believe that watching live sporting events can also offer an accessible and effective public health tool for improving wellbeing and reducing loneliness.
Lead author Dr Helen Keyes, Head of the School of Psychology and Sport Science at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: “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.
“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.”
Attending live sporting events predicts subjective wellbeing and reduces loneliness
Introduction: This study explored whether attending live sporting events (LSEs) improved subjective wellbeing and loneliness, above and beyond demographic predictors.
Methods: Secondary data from 7,249 adults from the Taking Part 2019–20 survey (UK household survey of participation in culture and sport) were analyzed. Multiple linear regressions captured the effect of attending LSEs (yes/no) on wellbeing variables (happiness, anxiety, a sense that life is worthwhile and life satisfaction) and loneliness, with gender, Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), age group, health and employment as covariates.
Results: For life satisfaction, a sense that life is worthwhile, and loneliness, inclusion of LSE attendance in the model improved model fit significantly, although ΔR2 values were small (ΔR2 = 0.001–0.003). For happiness and anxiety, the inclusion of LSE attendance did not alter model fit. LSE attendance was associated with increased life satisfaction (b = 0.171, p < 0.001), a greater sense of life being worthwhile (b = 0.230, p < 0.001), and reduced loneliness (b = −0.083, p < 0.01).
Conclusion: LSE attendance has positive associations with some aspects of subjective wellbeing (life satisfaction and a sense of life being worthwhile) and loneliness, above and beyond demographic predictors. Whilst the variance explained is small, it is comparable to demographic predictors (e.g., being in employment). As even small-sized differences in SWB can have meaningful outcomes (e.g., for mortality), we conclude that LSE attendance may still offer a scalable, accessible and effective means of improving the public’s wellbeing and reducing loneliness.