Thursday, February 29, 2024

Ivo Bozukov: Study Suggests That Attending Live Sport Improves Wellbeing

Ivo Bozukov serves as Forum Energy Technologies’ vice president of energy transition. In this role, Ivaylo Bozoukov is spearheading efforts to enable Forum Energy Technologies customers to achieve maximum positive environmental impact by utilising products and equipment that lower their carbon footprint.

In his spare time, Ivo Bozukov takes a keen interest in sport, particularly Formula 1, international sporting tournaments, major derbies and sailing regattas. This article will look at recent research that suggests attending live sporting events can have a tangible impact on people’s psychological health and wellbeing.

A first-of-its-kind research project published in Frontiers in Public Health reveals that attending any type of sporting event improves levels of wellbeing while simultaneously reducing feelings of loneliness.

The first large-scale study of its type, the research was undertaken by academics from the School of Psychology and Sport Science at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU). The team analysed data gathered from 7,209 people living in England aged between 16 and 85. The information was gathered via the Taking Part Survey, an initiative commissioned by the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The ARU study explored whether attending live sporting events improved subjective loneliness and wellbeing above and beyond demographic predictors. Analysing secondary data gathered in the Taking Part Survey 2019-20, the researchers used multiple linear regression to analyse the effect of attending live sporting events, gauging variables such as life satisfaction, a sense that life is worthwhile, happiness and anxiety. The research team also tracked a range of other parameters, including loneliness, Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), gender, health, age group and employment as covariates.

The research revealed that attending live sporting fixtures resulted in higher scores in two important measurements of subjective wellbeing, namely a sense of life being worthwhile. In addition, participants also demonstrated lower levels of loneliness.

The results are significant, as previous studies indicate that improved life satisfaction scores correlate with reduced incidence of life-limiting conditions, enhanced overall physical health and lower mortality rates.

The physical and psychological health benefits of participating in sport are already well-established, with numerous studies revealing that physical activity of all kinds has a positive impact on mood. In one study, which asked participants to score their mood following exercise versus periods of inactivity, the findings revealed that people felt calmer, more content and more awake following physical activity.

Regular exercise is particularly effective in driving down stress levels. Research on working adults indicates that people who are more active tend to be better equipped to manage stressful lifestyles, enabling them to make better decisions under pressure, with lower stress rates compared with those who are less active. Other health benefits of participating in sport include reduced depression and anxiety and improved self-esteem.

Many initiatives are currently underway that promote the benefits of participating in physical sport. However, this new research suggests that just watching live sporting events can also have a significant positive impact, presenting scope to use sport as an effective and accessible public health tool to reduce loneliness and improve wellbeing in the population overall. The new study reveals that attending and watching live sporting events can help increase an individual’s sense that life is worthwhile. Experts suggest that the size of this increase in wellbeing is comparable with a person gaining employment.

Dr Helen Keyes, Head of the ARU’s School of Psychology and Sport Science, served as lead author in the research. As Dr Keyes suggests, while previous research focused on small population samples or specific sports, the ARU’s research was the first study to look at the benefits of attending sporting events across an adult population. Dr Keyes suggests that the findings could be useful for shaping public health strategies, such as offering certain groups reduced tickets.

Live events covered by the research ranged from Premier League football matches to watching village sports teams and other free amateur events. Dr Keyes indicated that further research needs to be undertaken to assess whether the benefits are more pronounced for elite-level sport or are closely linked to supporting a specific team. Nevertheless, as Dr Keyes highlighted, watching lives sports of all types presents many opportunities for social interaction, helping people to forge group identity and a sense of belonging to help mitigate loneliness and boost levels of wellbeing. Findings from the ARU’s analysis suggest that live sporting event attendance has positive associations with certain aspects of subjective wellbeing, in particular a sense of life being worthwhile and life satisfaction. While the variance is small, it is comparable to demographic predictors such as being in employment. As even small-sized differences in subjective wellbeing can have meaningful outcomes – for example, in terms of mortality – the findings were deemed a powerful indicator that attending live sporting events may offer an effective, scalable and accessible means of reducing loneliness and improving people’s wellbeing.

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