Being an active member of a sports club has a positive impact on mental health, irrespective of age or gender, a new study has found.
According Austrian researchers, while social networking is increasingly popular thanks to things like Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter, ‘real' social contact is on the decline.
They decided to investigate the effect of sports club membership on health by analysing 1,685 papers on this topic.
They found that being an active member of a sports club during childhood and adolescence increases self-confidence, particularly among girls. It also helps ‘to stop young people from going down the wrong path'.
The research found that club membership has a beneficial effect on mental health and overall wellbeing and these effects ‘are much greater than those resulting from individually organised sporting activities'.
The findings also reveal that people in sports clubs are generally more content with their lives and that being an active member is fun and provides opportunities for socialisation, which in turn leads to more regular sporting activities.
These beneficial effects were observed in both males and females, and in all age groups.
"Social contacts keep you vital because you have to respond to your opposite number. This improves your cognitive abilities. Playing sport in a club has general psychosocial benefits - that is also a unique feature of a group activity," commented Dr Han-Peter Hutter of MedUni Vienna.
These findings are due to be presented at the European Forum Alpbach in Austria, an annual event involving three weeks of seminars, debates and symposiums involving a range of people including scientists, politicians and business leaders.