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In the News

Psychology In The News | Does Watching Sport Boost Our Wellbeing?

Rosey Gardiner-Earl

6th May 2024

You may well be looking forward to a summer of sport with Euro ’24, the Olympics, and the Paralympics all taking place this year. Watching sports, particularly in large gatherings, goes beyond mere entertainment - it fosters a sense of community and belonging among audiences. This sense of connection not only makes people feel good, but also benefits society by improving health, enhancing productivity, and reducing crime.

Whilst the positive effects of sports viewing are widely recognised, research on the relationship between watching sports and well-being has been limited up until now.

Japanese researchers explored the relationship between watching sports and wellbeing by conducting three, interconnected studies in Japan. The first study analysed publicly available survey data from 20,000 Japanese residents and confirmed that positive well-being was correlated with regular sports viewing. However, this study was unable to provide a cause-and-effect relationship between these two co-variables.

The second study was an experiment, involving 208 participants and it investigated whether the impact on well-being varied based on the type of sport observed. The experiment exposed participants to various sports videos, assessing their well-being both before and after viewing. The findings showed that popular sports, like baseball, had a more significant positive effect on well-being compared to less popular sports, such as golf.

The most groundbreaking aspect emerged in the third study, which employed neuroimaging techniques. The results revealed that sports viewing triggered activation in the brain's reward circuits, indicating feelings of happiness or pleasure. Furthermore, the structural image analysis showed that individuals who reported watching sports more frequently exhibited greater grey matter volume in regions associated with reward circuits, suggesting that regular sports viewing may induce long-term changes in brain structures.

The researchers conclude that both subjective and objective measures of well-being are positively influenced by engaging in sports viewing. By triggering structural changes in the brains reward system over time, regular sports viewing, particularly of popular sports, can serve as an effective way to enhance overall well-being.


  1. The first study conducted by the researchers used publicly available survey data. What type of data would we describe this as?
  2. Outline one strength and one weakness of using the type of data you have named in your answer to Q1 in this study.
  3. Why could the researchers not establish cause and effect between watching sport and positive ratings of wellbeing in study one?
  4. Which experimental design was used in the second study?
  5. What concept from the area of biopsychology does the third study provide evidence for, and why?
  6. Why should we be cautious when generalising the findings from this study?


Waseda University. "The joy of sports: How watching sports can boost well-being." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 April 2024.

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Rosey Gardiner-Earl

Rosey has 15 years of experience teaching Psychology and has worked as both a Subject and Senior Leader in school and large sixth form setting. Rosey is also an experienced A level Psychology examiner.

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