New scientific research has found that attending live sporting events improves levels of wellbeing 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 wellbeing – 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 ageing, 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.
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."
Dr Helen Keyes, Lead Author, Head of the School of Psychology and Sport Science, Anglia Ruskin University (ARU)
Keyes, H., et al. (2023). Attending live sporting events predicts subjective wellbeing and reduces loneliness. Frontiers in Public Health. doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2022.989706.