The Promotion of Well-being through Sporting Activities
New Horizons in the Economics of Sport series
Edited by Plácido Rodríguez, Stefan Késenne and Brad R. Humphreys
Chapter 8: Sports Participation and Happiness: Evidence from US Micro Data
Haifang Huang and Brad R. Humphreys INTRODUCTION 1. How does participation in physical activity benefit society? Policy makers around the world have implemented programs to increase participation in physical activity in order to promote health, fight rising obesity, deter crime, impart important life skills to youth, and achieve other important societal goals over the past few decades (Schoppe et al., 2004). This wide-scale adoption of policies and broad range of outcomes highlights the importance of physical activity in modern society. In this chapter, we address a question that has received relatively little attention to date: does participation in physical activity and sports enhance quality of life? Some previous research hints at an answer. Both exercise and sports have been identified as a cause of joy (Argyle and Martin, 1991). Experiments on American and Italian teenagers showed they tended to be the happiest when engaging in sports and games (Csikszentmihalyi and Wong, 19911). Does the happiness generated from sport participation extend beyond the duration of the activity? There are good reasons to expect it does. Physical activity promotes health, which is important for a happier life. Furthermore, participation in sport provides opportunities for socialization and helps develop communication and cooperation skills, all of which may lead to a more fruitful life. It is thus possible that participating in sports produces not just transitory, but long-lasting, happiness. Prior research using micro-level data suggests a positive correlation between sports participation and self-reported quality of life (Fox, 1999). The interpretation of this correlative relationship,...
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