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Mental, Health, Physical Education

Does Playing Sports Make People Happier?

Does Playing Sports Make People Happier?
Published: 2021-07-27

The next time the town grouch criticizes sports you play or teams you root for instead of wishing you had the nerve to apply a gag, offer a copy of this scholarly study which says:

There is also a direct link between participation in sport and happiness that is independent of health. 

Not only that, the study goes on the show the more frequently the sport is undertaken, the stronger is the association with happiness.

Those of us who play, and spectate have a pair of Swiss researchers to thank for the ammo to silence sports killjoys.  Their paper is thick with detail and models for the studious. 

Director of Research Bruno Frey of the Center for Research in Economics, management, and the Arts, Zurich and his associate Anthony Gullo are authors of Does Sports Make People Happier, or Do Happy People More Sports?

They synthesize and reference nearly 90 other scholarly papers relating to their fundamental question:

Does active sports participation make people happy or are happy people more willing to actively participate in sport?

“It turns out that the causal impact of engaging in sports on happiness is about four times higher than the effect of happiness on engaging in sports,” they state, adding “the causal analysis suggests that the causality runs in both directions: Sport has a positive effect on happiness, and happiness has a positive impact on sport.

What about fans?

The researchers point to a large literature which “identifies a positive association between live spectatorship and subjective well-being,” adding “the relationship between sports spectatorship and happiness may vary depending on whether the event is attended physically or watched on television.”

Importantly the study goes on to underline the healthy benefits of sport, saying “the insight about physical health gained in the first empirical part is confirmed: Sport participation is particularly beneficial for people experiencing worsening physical health.”

 Arms for our next killjoy conversation or at a school board considering canceling sports.