Men – watch sport and you may beat depression

by Martin

in Depression in Men, Depression News

Some great new research by Norwegian scientists provides solid evidence for some strategies that may help with recovery from depression and with staying well.

Men, especially, may be interested to hear that all that time watching sport may be time well invested.

The study, snappily entitled “Patterns of receptive and creative cultural activities and their association with perceived health, anxiety, depression and satisfaction with life among adults”, by Koenraad Cuypers and others, looked at a range of cultural activities and the impact of those activities on the health and well-being of the study participants.

The Study

The study divided cultural activities into what it called “creative activities” and “receptive activities”. Creative activities are those where you actually take part in the activity, e.g. you act in a play.

Receptive activities are those where your participation is passive, watch a play. The idea was to see how the different types of activity may be associated with mental and physical health and overall life satisfaction. Interestingly, evidence emerged of different results for men and women.

The creative cultural activities assessed were:

  • Participating in an association activity or club meeting
  • Participating in music, singing or theatre
  • Participating in parish work
  • Participating in outdoor activities
  • Participating in dance
  • Participating in sports or working out.

The receptive cultural activities were:

  • Attending a museum or art exhibition
  • Attending a concert, theatre or film
  • Attending a church or chapel
  • Attending sports events.

Participants in the study were asked how many times during the previous six months they had taken part in the various activities listed above.

Researchers then looked at the association between the degree of participation in the various activities and:

  • Perceived Health – this is person’s overall assessment of their health (physical and mental),
  • Satisfaction with life – this was assessed according to whether the person was by and large satisfied or dissatisfied with their life,
  • Anxiety – whether they were suffering from anxiety,
  • Depression – whether they were suffering from depression.

Specific Findings

There were multiple findings but the most interesting for our purposes were as follows.

Anxiety– receptive activities

All receptive cultural activities were associated with low anxiety in men, where as only going to museums/art exhibitions, attending theatre/concerts/films and sports events had that association in women.

Anxiety – creative activities

Low anxiety scores were associated with participation in association meetings, outdoor activities, sports and working out in men and those same activities, plus dance, were associated with low anxiety in women.

Depression – receptive activities

Low depression scores in men were associated with 3 receptive activities – going to museums/exhibitions, going to concerts/theatre/film, sports and working out. In women, all the receptive activities were related to low depression scores.

Depression – creative activities

For men, low depression scores were associated with association meetings, music/singing/theatre, outdoor activity, sports and working out. Women’s low depression scores were associated with participating in association meetings, outdoor activities, dance, sports and working out.

Overall Findings

Overall, for men and women participation in receptive and creative cultural activities had a very positive association with good satisfaction in life, low anxiety, low depression and overall good health.

It is also interesting to note that the more frequent the participation and the greater the number of activities participated in, the lower were the scores for anxiety and depression.

Finally, an interesting finding that emerged in relation to men was that those who took part specifically in receptive rather than creative activities reported better overall health.


The study does not prove cause and effect. In other words it does not show that participation in a particular activity leads to lower rates of depression. Nevertheless, since the study covered nearly 19,000 females and 15,500 males, the strength of the association evidence is impressive.

In many ways, this study suggests the importance of activity, especially exercise and those activities with a social element, as a way to cope with depression and stay well. This is not new. But, what is interesting are the associations between the receptive activities and low scores for depression and anxiety, especially in men.

So, whilst the study highlights the apparent value of physical activity, it does give some comfort to those whose sporting interests are played out more often on the couch than the sports field.

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Father, husband, writer and website publisher, discontented in his day-job, he writes here about depression - his own and in general. You can follow Too Depressed on Twitter. Please share the content on this site with all your friends, followers and contacts using the buttons above.

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Last revised on December 7, 2012

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