New Book Says Being A Sports Fan Improves Mental Health

Despite the inevitable pain of experiencing your team’s annual failures, a new book argues that being a sports fan improves your mental health.

Ben Valenta and David Sikorjak authored the book “Fans Have More Friends” in which they state finding fandom increases your sense of belonging, and thereby “enhances mental well-being.”

“[Sports] are an ever-present facilitator of connection. Sports are the reason to get people together, the reason to send that text message, the reason to check in with your parents, and so on. Sports anchor and galvanize relationships; they facilitate social interactions,” the co-authors told Healthline.

Specifically, the book found that non-sports fans are lonelier than sports fans. The latter group shares experiences and emotions with fellow fans of their team.

Rooting for a team creates camaraderie, whether it be in the stands, at the bar, or while running shirtless on the field.

KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE – OCTOBER 15: Tennessee Volunteers fans tear down the goal post while celebrating a win over the Alabama Crimson Tide at Neyland Stadium on October 15, 2022 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee won the game 52-49. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)

Seeing other individuals wear the jersey for the team for which you root creates a sense of community, argues the book.

Valenta lamented how belonging to a group can prevent feelings of anxiety and depression:

“Being part of any group helps people feel connected, which is a major component of our mental health. When you’re not as lonely, you tend to have a higher positive mental health. Fandom is about being part of something larger than yourself. In some ways, it’s also about feeling like you matter.”

He then likened fandom to a Fan Flywheel, which is a positive feedback loop where there are two variables: X and Y.

Let him explain:

“X influences Y, and Y then, in turn, influences X, which creates a positive feedback loop that sustains momentum and creates energy.

“Essentially, you lean into your fandom, you participate in fan activities, you engage as a fan; that’s the X in this example. And that creates the positive feedback of social interactions, the Y variable, which incentivizes you to lean into more fan activities, more fan engagement, which only then begets more social interaction. Once it starts to spin, it takes over.”

True. Though we remain skeptical all fan bases agree.

Imagine belonging to a group of Cleveland Browns fans. Rooting for the Browns is hardly the model for strong mental health.

What about the poor Lions fans who get their hopes up before every season, buy a new jersey, redo the basement in blue, schedule a cookout for opening weekend, and end up miserable by the start of October?

These Lions fans may not be lonely, but they surely are depressed.

Furthermore, we counter the study with fans of THE Ohio State. Are we supposed to believe a condescending attitude mixed with entitlement and bitterness is the path to a lifetime of happiness?

Ever met someone in a New York Yankees cap? Exactly — unstable.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

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