There Are Actually Mental Health Benefits From Attending Live Sporting Events

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For many people, being in a huge stadium with a cold beverage in hand, cheering along with the crowd, and high-fiving fellow fans is a favorite pastime. Yet when it comes to live sporting events, the last thing most people think about is their mental health. Whether that type of environment is your jam or not, you may be surprised to learn that an afternoon watching a game could be what your mental health needs. 


Recent research on live sporting events is changing the way we think about mental health days. While it is nice to treat yourself to a coffee, go on a walk, or do some pampering, consider attending a live sports game the next time you need to lift your mood. As reported by Frontiers in Public Health, attendance of live sporting events is associated with "greater life satisfaction and the sense that life is worthwhile, along with reduced loneliness."

So how exactly does a live sporting event help us feel less lonely and give us greater satisfaction in our lives? Let's explore all the ways you can improve your overall mental health with an afternoon at a game.

The research on live sporting events

The Frontiers in Public Health study discovered that watching live sporting events has a direct impact on our well-being and loneliness levels. In looking at over 7,000 people ages 16-85 living in England, researchers found that watching live sporting events provides the perfect atmosphere for people to garner feelings of connectedness, higher levels of self-esteem, and decreased feelings of depression.


In fact, this isn't the first publication to point out the research on how watching sports increases our happiness. In his 2022 book, "Fans: How Watching Sports Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Understanding," Larry Olmsted explores the correlation between people who watch sports and better mental health. Olmsted points out that because humans are tribal creatures by nature, we get a strong sense of community through our fellow fans; if you've ever been to a live sporting event, then you know that the community atmosphere is almost palpable. People laughing together, celebrating when their team scores, and watching athletes perform at their highest level can be extremely uplifting.

What loneliness does to our mental health

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that social connection is a key component of our mental health. Of course, small amounts of voluntary solitude can be beneficial for recharging (especially if you are an introvert), but large amounts of loneliness can have a negative effect on our well-being. According to Cleveland Health, when we experience loneliness, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Loneliness can also increase the risk of serious mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression, and it takes a toll on your physical health as well. In fact, The Lancet explains that along with the mental health implications, loneliness is also associated with an increased risk of premature mortality.


The ability of a community to counter the effects of loneliness cannot be understated. This is where you might find common interest groups as a way to make friends and deal with any loneliness in your life. Watching sporting events may not be the first thing you think of as a way to find connection, but as we are learning, it is actually the perfect environment.

Community decreases loneliness

As the research shows, it boils down to the fact that decreased loneliness is associated with increased longevity (via Frontiers). With the studies all pointing toward increased feelings of connectedness from watching live sporting events, researchers believe that these events should be more accessible to the public as a way to increase overall well-being.


But don't think you have to make a special trip to a high-profile event to reap the mental health benefits of a game. The best way to combat loneliness is to look within your community — and one way to do this is to make it a priority to check in on your friends more often. If you have a friend who's into a particular sports team, make it a mission to join them in watching a game.

If you aren't sure you want to put up the cash required to watch a professional sporting event, consider bringing friends along to support the local teams in your area. You will still get to watch a live sporting event, but at a much more affordable price. Maybe you have friends with children who play for a local high school team — even better! By supporting local athletes, you will gain a strong sense of community while also opening the opportunity to make new friends.


Making the most of your live sporting event

After you've convinced your friends to watch a live sporting event with you (or they have convinced you), the next step is to optimize your time in the stands. A huge part of forging deeper adult friendships is to spend time doing mutually shared activities. Finding a sport that you both enjoy watching is an important way to ensure you get the most out of your time together. Make it a fun event by coordinating outfits with the team colors, mapping out a spot to grab a meal after, and taking fun selfies at the game.


Attending a live sporting event can also be stressful if you don't plan ahead. Make sure you plan out parking and know the essentials like what the weather will be, how to get the tickets, and if there are any rules at the stadium on bags or purses; you can look online for all the details on how to best pack before you get there. Also, look into any tailgate parties before or after the big game — sometimes the best friendships are forged over food, drinks, and silly outdoor party games. Whatever game-day activities you choose, know that the time you're spending strengthening your social connections is also going a long way toward giving your mental health a boost.