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Football & happiness – a game of 2 halves 

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 brazil_flag_with_soccer_ball_1600_wht_2747Now the 2014 World Cup is underway again there will be much speculation about the impact it will have on the host country.

After the last one there was quite a bit of research which showed that such events did have positive outcomes.

We’ll have to wait and see if the same thing happens this time round in Brazil.

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Fans celebrating the upcoming 2010 FIFA World ...

Image via Wikipedia

Football can make people happier. Two economists tried but failed to prove that football was good for a country’s economy. But when they looked at national pride and happiness they got better results.

They looked for changes in life satisfaction in 12 European countries over 30 years up to 2004, and especially looked at how people felt following Olympic, World Cup, and European Cup competitions.

They were interested in whether or not teams doing better than expected had a positive effect on people from that country and whether countries hosting the competitions benefitted.

There was no evidence that performing better than expected had any real effect on people’s life satisfaction scores. Nor did planning to host such an event make people any happier.

But there was strong evidence that actually hosting an event did make people happier in that country. In fact it made people 3 times happier than if they had gained a higher level education, 1.5 times the happiness boost associated with getting married, and nearly large enough a difference in happiness to offset the misery of a divorce!

Sadly 1 year later the happiness effect had worn off. Whereas being married keeps you happier longer.

So perhaps the secret is to live in a country hosting such an event to get the short-term happiness boost and get married in the following 12 months for a longer-lasting effect!

FYI Married people are happier than single people (of course it could be that happy people get married more easily). And the 30% improvement in spousal happiness even counteracts all the negative affects of unemployment.

Greater Manchester Police reported an increase in domestic abuse the day England were knocked out of the World Cup. It was the largest number reported since New Year’s Eve and 16% up on the same time the previous year.

Updated 10 July 2010: The World Cup seems to have had a unifying effect on the rainbow nation, perhaps even more than the 1995 Rugby World Cup. And if the government figures are correct South Africa will break even on its investment in airports, motorways, and high speed rail links.

There has been a show of unity, pride and patriotism and the crime rates have been low despite South Africa’s reputation as one of the world’s capitals in murder and rape.

So maybe the economists have got it right. Apparently psychiatrists are concerned that South Africans will experience a post event depression when the World Cup finishes. Let’s hope it’s 1-0 to the economists.

And a 40 year research project in America reported in New Scientist (10 July 2010) shows that when local college football teams did well in the 2 weeks before an election the sitting party won more votes than when the team lost. So if you want to stay in power make sure your local team plays well!

Updated 20 September 2010: Despite concern that South African policemen are too fat to chase criminals – the police minister said they shouldn’t be “massaging beer bellies” – it seems that the get-fit boot camps put in place for the World Cup may have paid off. (This in a country, similar to USA and Germany, where 60% of the population are overweight or obese).

Despite SA having the highest murder rates in the world, outside war zones or countries with drug cartels like Mexico and Columbia, the World Cup showed what could be done. There has been a sharp decrease in murders (down almost 9%) and violent robberies for the first time since nation-wide records were first collected in 1995-6 (when there were 27,000 murders compared to 17,000 this year).

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Author: mikethepsych

He says he's a psychologist but aren't we all?

6 thoughts on “Football & happiness – a game of 2 halves 

  1. You dont need any reasearch on this matter, it is a very straifghtforward equation:-
    Your team win = happy
    Your team lose = pissed off……………..
    “Simples”

  2. Hello.This article was really remarkable, particularly since I was looking for thoughts on this subject last Wednesday.

  3. A short comment to say hi to you and to share my thoughts on your site.

  4. FYI Married people are happier than single people (of course it could be that happy people get married more easily). And the 30% improvement in spousal happiness even counteracts all the negative affects of unemployment.

    Married people are happier, and particularly men as they are subject to intensive conditioning as part of the courtship process and once married the full force of female control is exherted (nay, some would say brainwashing). If anyone is out there and reads this then come and save me……………………….!

    • If you saw the piece in The Observer magazine (20/6/10) you will have read that a happy marriage is equivalent to an annual income of £70,000 or the equivalent health gains to giving up smoking. However it also quoted research that says men do better out of marriage than women and that marriage is only good for you if it’s a good marriage. For women who are unhappily married or still hung up on ex-husbands it’s particularly bad news health-wise.