Is your fuse during a crucial sports match about as short as your chewed-up nails? Well, we might say you're dealing with a touch of matchday stress. But how high does that tension really rise during a nail-biting game? And which sports fans generally push the stress meter into the reddest zone? These and other questions were posed to over 1,300 British sports enthusiasts from all corners of the kingdom.
Here's a peek at the findings:
"It's just a game" might be chanted regularly, but it certainly doesn't apply to everyone. On average, British sports fans rate their stress levels while watching a crucial match at 6.3 on a scale of 10. This places it in the top 3 of the most stressful everyday activities, surpassing attending a work meeting, a family reunion, or preparing for the holidays. Only taking an exam and public speaking make our stress meter tick higher.
In a football-crazed nation like the United Kingdom, it may come as no surprise that among all sports fans, football enthusiasts experience the most stress when watching a crucial match. They rate their tension at an average of 6.8 on a scale of 10. Following closely are rugby fans with a score of 6.7, and behind them are cricket and tennis fans, both evaluating their stress levels at 5.9/10 and sharing a third-place position.
However, not all sports fanatics are swept up in matchday tension. Triathlon, e-sports, snooker, and athletics fans, for instance, find more stress during a family reunion than while watching a crucial game. Similarly, triathlon enthusiasts, along with motorcycle, Formula 1, and ice hockey fans, experience more stress attending a birthday party than when witnessing their favourite athletes in a significant match or race. And as for DIY tasks? They induce more stress for motorcycle, triathlon, and swimming enthusiasts than observing a critical game.
Of all the regions in the United Kingdom, the nail-biting factor is at its peak in the North East. On average, sports enthusiasts rate their stress levels during crucial matches and races at 6.8. This is just a tenth lower than the runner-up: Greater London. Sports fans from the East Midlands complete the top 3 with an average score of 6.6 out of 10. The calmest sports fans are found in Scotland. There, the average stress level during sports matches is only 5.2, a staggering 1.6 difference from the top spot on the list.
Shared sorrow is supposed to be half the sorrow, right? Well, that's still up for debate. When asked whether the level of stress changes when watching a crucial sports match alone, with friends, or with family, almost half of the respondents (46%) say it makes no difference. A quarter admit to experiencing more stress when watching a game alone, and for 16%, the tension increases when accompanied by friends. Finally, 13% of those surveyed reveal that their personal stress meter rises when family members join in to watch an important match.
During such a nail-biting match, it's only natural that you might need to release some steam now and then. A whopping 40% of respondents claim to do this by regularly shouting at the TV. A smaller percentage, 27%, attempts to keep their emotions in check by watching the game calmly with as little emotion as possible. Just over a tenth seek solace with friends or family, while 8% try to distract themselves by doing other things during the game, such as walking or tackling household chores. The smallest percentage, 6%, tackles stress through lucky rituals and superstitions.
In November 2023, we conducted a survey among 1,373 sports enthusiasts from across the United Kingdom. We asked them about their primary sports interests, how they assessed their stress levels during various everyday activities, and their typical expressions of frustration. Of all respondents, 70% identified as male, 29% as female, and 1% as non-binary. The average age was 44.6 years.
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