Hey Sports Fans! Spectator Sports Can Boost Older Adults’ Well-Being

Researchers recently completed a two-part study on the effects of “sport fandom” on older adults’ well-being, including game attendance, team identification, and perceived emotional support.

In the pilot study, 50 older women and men completed questionnaires that measured how much they identified with the women’s volleyball team of a local university and their level of perceived emotional support from other fans. Then, half the participants attended three of the team’s games over four weeks, while the other half did not attend any games. All participants then completed the same questionnaires and the groups were compared. As expected, older adults who attended the games and those who reported greater team identification reported greater emotional support.

The main study aimed to confirm these results with a larger sample. The researchers recruited more than 500 older sports fans to complete an online survey. They found that greater frequency of attending games of one’s favorite sports team, as well as greater team identification, were related to greater perceived emotional support. Additionally, greater perceived emotional support was related to a greater general sense of belonging, which in turn was related to better life satisfaction, greater happiness, and better mood. In testing the link between game attendance and team identification with sense of belonging, the researchers found that only team identification was related to sense of belonging, through greater emotional support.

Not only is going to see one’s favorite team play an exciting outing, it can have a positive impact on older adults’ perceived emotional support. Past research has shown the importance of social participation for older adults’ well-being, and this study confirmed that sports game attendance can be considered a social event.

It is also interesting that team identification was indirectly related to sense of belonging, but game attendance was not. This may mean that physically attending a game is not necessary to benefit—watching televised games or discussing games with others may be just as good.


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Inoue Y, Wann DL, Lock D, Sato M, Moore C, and Funk DC. Enhancing older adults’ sense of belonging and subjective well-being through sport game attendance, team identification, and emotional support. Journal of Aging and Health. (2019) . https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0898264319835654

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