Personally doing sports associated with satisfaction, less loneliness

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Do you feel unsatisfied and lonely? Maybe you want to snag tickets to a few games of your favorite team. New research links watching live sporting events to higher life satisfaction and lower levels of loneliness — and researchers say watching live sporting events could be used to improve public health.

The study, published in Frontiers in Public Health, looked at data from a survey of 7,209 people aged 16 to 85 living in England. The survey asked participants questions about their lives and well-being, and included questions about whether they participated in sporting events.

The analysis showed that attending a live sporting event resulted in higher self-reported life satisfaction scores and lower loneliness scores. Participants who had attended a live sporting event within the past year were more likely to say their life was worthwhile – adding a live game to the mix predicted higher self-reported life satisfaction than some demographic factors such as age or occupation that can indicate how valuable someone finds their life.

Researchers observed a similar effect for loneliness, although the effect was not observed for self-reported anxiety or happiness.

The researchers were careful to note that the data does not mean that watching live sports actually causes these gains. But the association is worth investigating further, they say — particularly because of the association of reduced loneliness and higher life satisfaction with better overall health.

“Our findings could be useful for designing future public health strategies, such as offering reduced ticket prices for certain groups,” says Helen Keyes, director of the Anglia Ruskin University School of Psychology and Sport Science and lead author of the study, in a press release .

The researchers speculate that the social interaction inherent in sporting events can make people feel like they belong, making them less lonely. However, more research is needed to determine whether sporting events and not another factor is responsible for higher life satisfaction scores.

It’s the latest salvo in an ongoing attempt to determine how attending live sporting events affects viewers. For some participants, however, there might be a downside: Some studies have found that watching sports can lead to health problems associated with faster heart rates and higher blood pressure brought on by the excitement of a game.

Nonetheless, most “people who watch sports enjoy it and have no health problems during or after it,” writes Robert H. Shmerling, physician and senior faculty editor of Harvard Health Publishing.

And given the potential benefits of cheering on your favorite team in person, a day at the game could be just what the doctor ordered.

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