Avid fantasy football players are more likely to suffer negative effects on their mental health, a new study has claimed.
The research – described as the first of its kind – was carried out by sports psychologists at Nottingham Trent University who focused on the mental health and wellbeing of fantasy football players – a game where people earn points for imaginary teams based on the performance of real-life players.
A survey was conducted to record 1,995 individuals’ engagement with the game, looking at the time they spent playing, researching and thinking about fantasy football and the effect it had on their mood, social adjustment and habits.
Nearly a quarter of respondents (24.6%) reported mild low mood, which includes sadness, anger, frustration, tiredness and low self-esteem.
This increased to 44% for “high engagement” players – people who spend 45 minutes playing, more than 60 minutes researching and more than 120 minutes thinking about fantasy football a day.
34% of heavy users said the game caused them at least mild anxiety (compared with 20% of all players) and 37% said it disrupted their lives, causing what the researchers described as “functional impairment”.
The researchers have suggested game developers, as well as players, do more to monitor the amount of time being dedicated to fantasy football.
Dr Luke Wilkins, an expert in sport and exercise psychology at the university, said: “While it’s positive that only a minority report mental health issues in relation to their fantasy football, it is concerning that higher levels of engagement appear to increase the likelihood of experiencing issues with mood and anxiety and seem to be having a negative impact on players’ lives.
“Fantasy football is unwinnable for the vast majority that play and it is possible that the more a person is invested, the more negatively impacted they will be when they ‘lose’.”