New Study Shows How Watching Football Impacts Self-Esteem

March 24, 2019
Buckeyes take the field at Ohio Stadium

Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick

A new study from Professor Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick investigates the impact a college football game can have on self-esteem and mood for fans watching a big game. Her study, published in Communication & Sport, involved 174 students from the Ohio State and Michigan State universities and was focused on the Nov. 21, 2015, football game between the two schools. It was a major moment in the 2015 football season when Michigan State defeated Ohio State, ranked third in the nation at the time, 17-14 due to a last-second field goal. The participants were evaluated for their mood, self-esteem and group affiliation immediately before and on two consecutive days following the game.

The results found that the Michigan State students experienced a boost in self-esteem for the two days after the big win. While the Ohio State students experienced no significant change in self-esteem, they did show decreases in mood. Watching the game with friends impacted students from both teams. According to Knobloch-Westerwick, the social aspect of celebrating a victory for the winning team led to a self-esteem boost, while sharing the pain with others for the losing team may have protected them from self-esteem drops.