Is Football Good for our Mental Health?

football table

 Photo by snarlenarlen, copyright protected

Shahina is Communications Assistant at Twining. With World Cup fever taking over, she tries to answer the question, is watching football good for our mental health?

The England team may have been knocked out rather early from the World Cup but the competition goes on. Emotions and tensions are still running high through all the yellow cards and penalties. It may all seem like fun and games on the surface but what impact do these tournaments have on our mental and physical health?

Below are some common arguments used when discussing football and its relationship to mental health.

The world cup is good for your mental health

  • It gives you a chance to immerse yourself in the game and find relief from the usual stresses of life. Time is often set aside to watch a match; time spent on yourself or bonding with friends and family. The World Cup can give people a sense of identity and belonging too.
  • It allows you to express and release feelings of frustration or happiness which you otherwise may have kept to yourself.
  • Enthusiasm for the game caused by World Cup fever may result in people getting out there and playing football themselves- with their friends, neighbours, children or other family members. Physical activity is known to improve mental health.

The World Cup isn't good for your mental health

  • If you identify yourself personally with a team and it becomes the main focus of your life, this can mean very negative emotions when that team is defeated. In some studies, fans from losing teams experienced symptoms like anxiety, irritability, problems sleeping and headaches.
  • Often watching football is associated with excessive drinking which is detrimental to our mental and physical health.
  • An obsession with football can stop people pursuing other interests or cause them to neglect other responsibilities.

Studies offer us different insights, one found a reduction in the numbers of emergency psychiatric admissions during and after World Cup finals. Others note an increase in violence- not just hooliganism but also domestic violence. 

So is the World Cup and football in general good for our mental health?

Obviously it’s difficult to say for certain; everyone is different and they have different triggers which cause them distress. Many will say that football, and the world cup especially, has a positive impact on their mood and outlook. Others may find the tension and stress overwhelming; not to mention the emotions and low mood most experience after their national team is knocked out. The wider impact on relationships and on others is also debatable.

In the end, the most important thing is to figure out your own responses and take these seriously. What matters isn’t really the winning or losing but looking after your own mental health and well-being. 

For a more detailed look on these and other arguments, take a look at this article by the Mental Health Foundation

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