The Light and Dark of Being a Sports Fan

There has been a stereotype for years about the type of person that loves sports. Overweight, drunk, psychotic are a few that many people associate with being a fanatic. “The stereotype that sports fans are overweight, beer-drinking couch potatoes is inaccurate,” said Daniel L. Wann, a psychology professor at Murray State University in Kentucky. According to research, there are actually more positive things that come with being a sports freak than negatives.

A big negative that researchers at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock found is that avid sports fans tend to have poorer eating habits than people who aren’t interested in sports, which could have something to do with the “overweight” stereotype.

And while it is always a bummer when your favorite team loses, a positive thing about being a fan is that it is easy to set one’s self apart from their team since they don’t actually play for them. This tends to ease the pain of a loss for fans. But sometimes, the stress levels of an intense game followed by a loss can increase risk of cardiac issues. Dr. Bryan Schwartz, a cardiovascular fellow at the Heart Institute of Good Samaritan Hospital, found that a “recurring pattern” of increases in cardiac death rates after a game when these conditions are met: “when the fans are of the losing team, when the game is played at home, particularly when the losing team was expected to win, especially in a game that goes into overtime or has a shoot-out.” Overall, the risk is higher in older fans with pre-existing conditions. But fans just have to remember it is just a game, and try not to get too worked up.

But in the end, being a sports fan can benefit one’s emotional, psychological and social health, scientists like Wann, who has studied fans for over 25 years, have determined. Fans who identify with a local team tend to have higher self esteem and tend to be less lonely. Because of the feeling of inclusion that comes with being a part of the community, it is easier for fans to strike up conversation and find common ground with others.

Another positive of being a fan that researchers from the University of Utah has found: in men, testosterone levels increase after their team gets a win, whether it was watched in person or at home. Higher testosterone levels can lead to better sexual performance and increased energy – something that can combat that stereotype of fans being overweight or unhealthy. So keep rooting for your favorite team, it’s good for you!

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