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.

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2020 QS World University Rankings and top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2020, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 8th in The UK Complete University Guide 2020.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Specialising exclusively in postgraduate-level study, Loughborough University London is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers cutting-edge master’s and PhD degrees, as well as business collaboration, research and enterprise opportunities.

The seven specialist institutes at Loughborough University London include: Design Innovation, Digital Technologies, Diplomacy and International Governance, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, International Management, Media and Creative Industries, and Sport Business. Close industry partnerships with a wealth of leading businesses and creative organisations means teaching and learning is informed by real-life challenges and driven by true industry pressures.