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Why Watch Sports? Fans Get a Self-Esteem Boost, Study Finds

HealthDay News
by -- Robert Preidt
Updated: Mar 12th 2019

new article illustration

TUESDAY, March 12, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- When your favorite college team wins the big game, it can boost your self-esteem for days -- especially if you watch the game with others, a new study suggests.

Researchers assessed 174 students from Ohio State (OSU) and Michigan State (MSU) universities before and after a key 2015 football game. Michigan State, then ranked No. 9, beat No. 3 OSU on a field-goal as time expired.

Before the game on Saturday, fans from both schools had similar levels of self-esteem when asked to rate their body, appearance, academic ability and other measures. But two days after the faceoff, elated MSU students were riding high, while disappointed OSU fans' self-esteem saw little change.

Researchers said how and if the students saw the matchup was key.

Fans from both schools who watched the game with others had the highest average self-esteem the day after, followed by those who didn't watch. Those who watched alone had the lowest self-esteem score on Sunday.

However, win or lose, when fans from both schools returned to classes on Monday, those who watched -- whether alone or with friends -- had greater self-esteem, according to the study recently published in the journal Communication & Sport.

"The game was probably an important topic of conversation on campus the following Monday, and that boosted the self-esteem of those who watched it and could talk about it and share the joy or pain," study co-author Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, a professor of communication at OSU, said in a university news release.

By Monday, students who missed the game scored even lower on self-esteem than those who watched the game alone.

"People who didn't watch couldn't participate in the conversations, which probably led to a loss of self-esteem," Knobloch-Westerwick said.

Overall, the results show that fans enjoy watching games because of the boost they get from supporting the winning team, and that watching a game is most rewarding when you do so with friends, she said.

"You want to be in this with other people. Winning or losing, it is better to be a fan with your friends," Knobloch-Westerwick said.

More information

For more on sports fans, go to Psychology Today.