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Older adults' sports participation can improve personal empowerment, self-confidence, self-esteem and resistance to the negative views of aging

Hyung Kim AC, Park SH, Kim S, Fontes-Comber A. Psychological and social outcomes of sport participation for older adults: A systematic review Aging and Society. 2019 February 28.  

Review question

  • What are the positive and negative psychological and social outcomes of older adults’ sports participation?


How the review was done

  • A detailed search of a number of electronic databases was conducted for studies published up to December 2017. Studies that focused on sport, health, older adults (age 50+), mental health and social benefits were included.
  • A total of 62,788  studies were identified in searches and 23 were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.
  • The authors did not acknowledge any funding sources for this review.

What the researchers found

  • People who participate in sports are more likely to resist the negative stereotypes associated with aging. However, this perspective can stigmatize or neglect older adults who are not physically active.
  • Unlike younger adults, participation in sports did not consistently reduce stress among older adults. Instead, participation in sports could lead to increased pre-competition stress.  
  • The length of time involved and level of participation (casual vs. competitive, and sports vs. general exercise) provided different benefits for participants. More research is needed on the benefits of each type of participation.


  • Participation in sports can improve life satisfaction, social life, and the mental health of older adults. However, more research on the benefits of sport in different socioeconomic and cultural groups is needed. Developing new ways to evaluate the benefits of different levels of participation and factors promoting participation is needed to develop intervention programs.

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