Is There Really Such Thing as Sports Fan Depression?

Being a sports fan can be thrilling and exciting. It’s always great to have something to look forward to every year and to many, it is the certain seasons of the sports that they follow. For football fans, it would be the NFL For soccer it could be the English Premier League or the FIFA World Cup. For basketball fans, it could be the NBA, and for cricket, it could be the Indian Premier League. 

Whatever sports season it is, fans will surely find the time to watch and support their favorites. Many see sports as a habit but there are fans who take their teams and favorite athletes seriously. It is to the point that it could actually be affecting their mental health.

If you’re a big sports fan yourself, have you ever experienced feeling extremely down after watching a match where your team loses? Well, you might have experienced sports fan depression. Many don’t even know what this is but according to experts, this is a real thing,

What is Sports Fan Depression?

Sports fan depression is sometimes associated with people who are new to online betting or sports betting, in general. It makes sense as sports betting has certain risks that could lead to depression but this having a sports-related depression in itself is different. 

Anthony Centore Ph.D., the founder and the CEO of Thriveworks has written about the first time he encountered a client with sports-related depression. He wrote, “The first time a client came into my office, explaining that he was feeling depressed after his favorite hockey team lost the championship game, I thought he was exaggerating—that, or just being sarcastic. But he was serious.

“And over the course of the hour, he explained his feelings of loss, despair, anger, irritability, and his inability to focus at work, which are all common symptoms of depression,” he added. He thought it was a rare and unusual case.

Later on, one of his colleagues who was also at the practice talked to him about how she was also feeling the same depression symptoms. To his surprise, the colleague was also talking about the same game. This is when it seems to have dawned on him that sports fan depression is real and he even said that some people could even be experiencing more pain.

There are already several studies that have shown sports fans suffering from physical and psychological consequences when their team loses. There are instances when such happenings would cause reckless driving, heart attacks, and even domestic violence.

There was a study made on the fans of a National Football League team that was published in the Journal of Psychological Science. In this study, the experts found that when the team lost, fans ate around 16 percent more saturated fat compared to what they would have on a usual day.

However, when the team won, the fans ate 9 percent less of saturated fat. According to the researchers involved in this study, People eat better when their football team wins and worse when it loses, especially if they lost unexpectedly, by a narrow margin, or against a team of equal strength.”

It’s Still Not All Bad

Even if sports-related depression could happen, sports is not all bad for many people. In fact, to some, watching or following sports is a great way for them to deal with a crisis. To some, it is even a great form of social activity.

UBC Public Scholar and Ph.D. psychology candidate Zarina Giannone spoke about how sports fandom could be beneficial. Giannone said, “Fandom helps people develop a social identity, by creating membership in a specific group that has personal and social significance. Valued by them but also by larger society.

“It allows them to hold a social role. When people select teams, it’s usually in groups that have the most potential to contribute to the identity they hold and other psychological constructs like self-esteem and confidence.”

In the book Soccernomics, authors Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski have taken a look at the suicide rates in 12 European nations during the years that their national teams played in major tournaments like the World Cup. They found that in ten of those countries, suicide declined for the entire year, even after the country’s national team has lost the tournament.

“Other than sports, only war and catastrophe can create this kind of national unity,” citing that after JFK’s assassination, not one suicide was reported in 29 different American cities, as well as the decline in Britain’s suicides after Princess Diana’s 1997 death,” they wrote on the book.

Giannone said that watching sports don’t necessarily reduce depression but it could help. Just take a look at how many people were still thinking about their favorite leagues despite a pandemic. Even if the world was dealing with a health crisis, many were hoping to still be able to watch their favorite teams and athletes play. 

This just shows how much sport could help uplift the spirits of many. T this is why even if sports-related depression is real, it’s still not all bad for the sports fans out there. 

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