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People who play sports are more employed and better paid

Playing with a team or keeping fit is good for your career too, according to this research.

Clontarf players regroup before a scrum in a recent Ulster Bank League game.
Clontarf players regroup before a scrum in a recent Ulster Bank League game.
Image: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

ATHLETIC PEOPLE, OFTEN stereotyped as being “dumb jocks” or “meatheads”, have a higher likelihood of being employed and of having higher incomes.

This is according to research by Michael Lechner of St Gallens University in Switzerland and Paul Downward, a sports economist at Loughborough University.

The study looks at a dataset of sports participation and employment rates for of over 170,000 people in England in 2009-2010. The sports were aggregated into five categories: team sports (eg. football, basketball and cricket), fitness activities (track and field, cycling), racquet sports (tennis, squash), leisure activities (bowling, dancing) and outdoor activities (skiing, hiking). The results are then compared to employment across races, genders and ages.  Those with a disability or severe long-term illness were not included in the study.

The results are striking. Men aged 26-45 are 2.8% less likely to be unemployed than men in the same age group who do not play a sport. Similarly, women aged 26-45 who do play a sport are 5.2% more likely to be employed than their non-sport playing counterparts.

Furthermore, participating in physical activity bumped up incomes for both men and women by more than 10%.

The table below summarizes the differences.  The currency used for household income is the British pound.


Within the various sports categories, notable differences were found. Younger men that played fitness sports and indulged in outdoor activities had higher incomes than those who played team sports. But, as they got older, team sports were correlated with higher earnings.

View the whole study here.

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