The Economics of Sport, Health and Happiness

The Economics of Sport, Health and Happiness

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

Including an array of distinguished contributors, this novel book fills a gap in the literature by addressing an important, yet under-researched, issue in the field of sports economics. It places great emphasis on the notion that sport is a significant component for improving the happiness, health and well-being of citizens, communities and society as a whole. In so doing, it addresses whether, in an environment of increasing pressure on public spending, governments should continue to subsidize sporting activities at the expense of other public resources.

Chapter 8: Sports Participation and Happiness: Evidence from US Micro Data

Haifang Huang and Brad R. Humphreys

Subjects: economics and finance, health policy and economics, sports, social policy and sociology, health policy and economics


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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