New study shows sport pays

Playing a sport can earn individuals up to £6,500 more per year and, for younger and middle-aged adults, it also increases their chances of employment.

The impact on earnings is typically greater for younger to middle aged adults than older adults, whilst team sports were not shown to affect older females’ earnings.

The study analysed almost 80,000 responses from the Active People Survey, and linked this to the provision of facilities in the Active Places Survey and data from the Annual Population Survey to identify associations between sports participation on employment and earnings in England.

Researchers used a ‘matching’ analysis to make comparisons between individuals who were most similar in all respects other than sports participation.

This is the most comprehensive review of the impact of sport on employability and earnings ever undertaken in England.

Paul Downward, Professor of Economics in Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (SSEHS) said:

“Our findings show a clear link between sport, earnings and employability. Team building and decision making skills are two of the clear direct benefits of sport likely to improve chances of earning, but sport and fitness may also impact on an individual’s self-esteem and sense of wellness, sending positive messages to employers.

“Retaining a sporting profile might also enhance lifetime earnings. Whilst team sports such as football and hockey are shown to be helpful to young people getting onto the career ladder, switching to other sports with ageing could retain the initial benefits and offer other opportunities. For example, outdoor sports such as golf naturally bring with them additional networking opportunities.”

Heterogeneous sports participation and labour market outcomes in England is published in Applied Economics.

View the press release on the Loughborough University website for further information and resources.