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New study shows sport pays

People who play sport can earn on average 10% more than their non-active counterparts according to a study by economists at Loughborough University and the University of St Gallen (Switzerland).

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.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 16/162

Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via

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, putting it among the best universities in the world, and was named the best in the country for its student experience in the 2016 THE Student Experience Survey. Loughborough was ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2017 and 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2017 and was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017, and University of the Year in the What Uni Student Choice Awards 2015.

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.

In September 2015 the University opened an additional academic campus in London’s new innovation quarter. Loughborough University London, based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities.



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