Researchers at the University of Northern Iowa have found participation in sports and other activities can have some positive impact on people later in life. Disa Cornish put together the study that was funded by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union.
Cornish says they found “weak but significant associations between participating in high school athletic activities and positive outcomes later in life.” Cornish says the positive impacts from participating in high school sports impacted a lot of areas. She says they saw it in physical health, mental health, life satisfaction, civic engagement, education, employment and finances.
Cornish says they also found participation in “non athletic” extracurricular activities were also weakly associated with positive outcomes later in life. Cornish says the positives show in the study aren’t enough to point to participation as the driving factor in living a happier life.
“The associations between participation in extracurricular activities in high school and outcomes later in life are very small, which means there are probably a lot of other things that are also explaining positive outcomes later in life,” Cornish says. The study says some of the factors that go into the positive feelings derived from sports and activities, included the size of the school, the family situation of the participant and gender.
Cornish says men reported more positive outcomes from sports, while females reported more positive outcomes from non-sport activities. Either way, Cornish says being involved seems to be a key. Cornish says involvement of any kind was associated with positive outcomes for both males and females later in life. She says they looked at a 10 to 20-year span after high school. The study did show some indications of increased alcohol use by men and women involved in sports, but she says they weren’t enough to link the problems directly to the participation.
Cornish says there was some analysis that suggested that some aspects participation might be negatively associated with risk behaviors, while there were also some models that showed they might be positively associated with risk behaviors. “That just suggests to us that there is a lot going on there, and there might be other factors involved,” Cornish explained. The study was conducted through the Center for Social and Behavioral Research at U.N.I.