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Research: Investment in sport saves billions on health and crime

What effect does sport have on the wider economy and society? Sheffield Hallam University has attempted to find out

Published in Sports Management 02 May 2016 issue 119
Increased subjective wellbeing related to sport contributed £30.4bn / LarsZ /
Increased subjective wellbeing related to sport contributed £30.4bn / LarsZ /

Almost £45bn was saved in England over a 12 month period on health, crime and education as a result of the country’s investment in sport.

According to a new study compiled by Sheffield Hallam University – Social Return on Investment in Sport – the £23.46bn (US$33.68bn, €29.86bn) spent on sport during 2013-14 contributed to a £44.75bn (US$64.24bn, €56.95bn) “outcome”, with six of the outcomes relating to health, two to education and a further three to social outcomes.

In terms of health, the study found that participation in sport and exercise at “moderate intensity” for adults reduced the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and strokes by 30 per cent, colon cancer by 24 per cent, Type 2 diabetes by 10 per cent, dementia by 30 per cent and breast cancer in women by 20 per cent.

In addition, 14.1 per cent of adults participating in sport and exercise were more likely to report good health than non-participants.

As a result £1bn (US$1.43bn, €1.27bn) was saved on the reduction of CHD and stroke risks, £132m (US$189.5m, €168m) on breast cancer, £239m (US$343.1m, €304.2m) on Type 2 diabetes, £2.2bn (US$3.2bn, €2.8bn) on dementia, while £1.5bn (US$2.2bn, €1.9bn) was saved because of reported good health.

The biggest economic impact was the £30.4bn (US$43.6bn, €38.7bn) derived from participants’ “higher subjective wellbeing”. A 1 per cent reduction in crime over the period resulted in £41m (US$58.9m, €52.2m) savings, while improvements in education attainment for those taking part in physical activity netted the country £5m (US$7.2m, €6.4m).

Finally, work done by volunteers in sport contributed to £7.8bn (US$11.2bn, €9.9bn) in economic impact.

The study – funded by the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF), the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Sport England – found that by dividing the value of outcomes (£44.75bn) by the value of inputs (£23.46bn) a Social Return on Investment in Sport of £1.91 (US$2.74, €2.43) was generated for every £1 (US$1.43, €1.27) spent.

Researchers – Larissa Davies, Peter Taylor, Girish Ramchandani and Elizabeth Christy – said that the study was “the start of a journey, providing a platform for improvement in evidence on the social impacts of sport”.

“The purpose of the research is to enable policy makers to present a case for supporting investment in sport, by demonstrating its wider contribution and value to society,” they added.

“Furthermore, from an educational perspective, it is to lay down the basis for a research programme in this area, and a platform upon which to build and improve estimates of social impact and value in the future.”

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