Watching sports is good for your health.
That’s the gist of a new book called Sports Fans: The Psychology and Social Impact of Spectators, by psychologist Daniel Wann. He says the normal stereotype - that guys who watch sports are overweight, beer-drinking couch-potatoes – is not always true. In fact, lots of new research shows that being a sports fan may actually improve your emotional, social, and physical health.
For example: Studies show that sports fans tend to be less lonely, and have higher self-esteem, than non-sports fans. Wann says it’s because of the “built-in connection” you have with other people rooting for the same team, which makes it easier to break the ice and talk to them. And being social is an important part of maintaining your mental well-being. It may also help you score a date.
For example, a study at Indiana University showed that fans felt more confident about asking someone out after their basketball team won. Why? Because the win made them feel more confident and more attractive. And there’s a physiological reason for that. Paul Bernhardt is a professor of psychology.
And he says testosterone levels in men rise after their team wins and fall when their team loses.
In one study, testosterone levels went up and down by 20-percent!
So why is watching sports so powerful?
It boils down to the fact that as a species, we have a strong need to belong, and to identify with something greater than ourselves. And for many people, watching a game gives us the opportunity to do that. And when our team wins a big game, our self-esteem scores points as well. Psychologists call this phenomenon “reflected glory” — where the success of the team positively reflects on its fans.