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Is Being a Diehard Sports Fan Good for Your Mental Health?

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on September 15, 2021

Pumped before game day and itching to wear your team’s jersey? Being a diehard sports fan may have some positive effects on your mental health. Studies have found that people who are sports fans have higher self-esteem compared to individuals with no interest in sports. Sports fans were also found to feel more fulfilled in life.

Who Is a Fan?

A fan is someone with an emotional connection to a sports club, team, or group. A sports fan talks and thinks about a particular sport. This might happen even when they’re not at an event or watching a game involving the team or sport they’re fans of. Being a fan involves staying consistent and loyal to your fandom.

As a fan, your commitment to your team and sport occurs in three ways:

  1. Cognitive. This happens as you find out more about the sport and your team. 
  2. Behavior. Behavioral commitment is when you show support to your team regardless of wins or losses. You continue to buy tickets, merchandise, and make other purchases to show your loyalty to the team and sport.
  3. Attitude. This comes about through the firm belief in your team or club.

Sometimes distinguishing between a diehard fan and a spectator might not be so obvious. A diehard fan is committed to and follows their team. A spectator only observes the game and might even forget about it when it’s done. It all comes down to the individual’s passion for the team and game.

Mental Health Benefits of Being a Sports Fan

Below are a few ways you may benefit mentally and socially from being a sports fan. These areas include:

  • Self-esteem. Diehard fans derive self-esteem from their team's successes due to their close emotional connection to the team and fellow fans. They identify with their high-performing team, as they consider their team an extension of themselves.
  • Eustress. Watching your team participate in competitions may cause feelings of pleasure and anxiety. Such feelings create adrenaline and dopamine in the body. The two chemicals are associated with arousal, which can make you feel positive stress or eustress. Fans often experience positive emotions and eustress after sports events. These good feelings then contribute to fan loyalty.
  • Escapism. Cheering on your favorite sports team may provide a way to escape your daily stresses of life or work. Some research proposes that the further the sports event location is from your home, the higher the chance of escapism. People who work long hours may even become motivated to keep performing well after attending matches involving their team.
  • Strengthening family relationships. Watching a game with your family can be equated to taking a weekend out or a family vacation. It strengthens the family bond by allowing you to spend time together. It also contributes to promoting loyalty in the family for the sport and team.
  • Entertainment. Most diehard sports fans find entertainment by watching sporting events involving their favorite teams. Aside from the game itself, people are entertained by the sounds and colors present during the events.
  • Group affiliation. Watching a game with other diehard fans creates a cultural connection and a sense of belonging to an exclusive crowd. This offers a sense of togetherness and group identity. Some people may even feel their life has meaning when they’re supporting their team together with other fans.

Sport Team Identification and Imagined Interactions

Research has found that diehard sports fans are better at thinking about conflict, mentally preparing for bad things that may happen in their life, maintaining relationships, and letting go of stress in healthy ways. This is possibly due to factors like sports team identification and imagined interactions.

Sports team identification. Sport team identification means the level at which you feel connected to your team and their performance. You may develop sports team identification through media influence, family, geography, or peer influence. 

As a sports fan, you think about the role you play in your team’s performance in both the present and in the future.

Imagined interactions. Imagined interactions involve expressing frustration through things like sarcasm in your mind. This concept may help you to vent and resolve negative feelings from watching your team perform poorly. 

Imagined interactions may also help to:

  • Compensate for the lack of real interactions
  • Practice what you want to say in your mind
  • Resolve conflicts
  • Maintain relationships
  • Promote self-understanding
  • Let go of stress and tension
WebMD Feature

Sources

SOURCES:

British Journal of Marketing Studies: “Sport Fans as Consumers: An Approach to Sport Marketing.”

Imagination Cognition and Personality: “Fandom and Psychological Enhancement: Effects of Sport Team Identification and Imagined Interaction on Self-Esteem and Management of Social Behaviors.”

McLean Hospital: “Do Sports Fans Have Better Self-Esteem?”

UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones: “Fan Loyalty and Motivation.”

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