Raising awareness of mental health benefits of being active could decrease risk of male suicide, says Sport and Recreation Alliance

According to new research from the Sport and Recreation Alliance physically inactive men are less likely to recognise the positive impact exercise can have on mental wellbeing.  

Recognition of the mental health benefits of sport and recreation across British society as a whole is much higher with three-quarters (77%) of all respondents agreeing that taking part in sport and physical activity is good for their mental wellbeing. 

Poor mental health is cited as the largest single source of disease burden in the UK and is consistently associated with poorer physical health

Being unaware of the mental health benefits of being active is one the biggest problems for the inactive male population. In the UK men accounted for three-quarters of all suicides in 2016 and an intervention to build greater awareness amongst inactive males could help to decrease the risk of developing a mental health problem. 

Emma Boggis, CEO of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, commenting on the new research said: “Being physically active has a positive impact on an individual’s mental wellbeing and that is why it is incredibly important that everyone has the opportunity to experience the benefits of sport and recreation.  

“If you are not aware of the mental wellbeing benefits of being physically active then you are unlikely to consider how they can help relieve stress or boost mood.  

“Our research shows that inactive men are the least aware of the mental wellbeing benefits of being physically active. This is particularly worrying when we already know that men account for three-quarters of all suicides in the UK.  

“We believe that educating inactive men on the mental wellbeing benefits of being physically active could play a role in helping to reduce these numbers and could even help to save lives.” 

The Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation 

The Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation, organised by the Sport and Recreation Alliance, Mind and the Professional Players Federation, uses the power of sport and recreation to promote mental wellbeing through physical activity. The Charter works with organisations that deliver sport and physical activity to provide accessible and positive environments to have open conversations about mental health.  

Emma Boggis continued: “The Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation has helped sport and recreation organisations to drive positive conversations around mental health. With even greater resources sport and physical activity can play an even bigger role in tackling the nation’s mental health crisis. Educating and raising awareness amongst inactive males will encourage them to lead an active lifestyle that can positively contribute to their own mental health and collectively work towards improving the nation’s mental wellbeing.” 

Case study: Notts County Football in the Community  

On the Ball is a programme that uses football to help engage young men who are suffering with mental health problems. The programme was established in 2007 and men aged 18 to 45-years-old are invited to build their confidence in a non-clinical environment and to talk about some of the day-to-day problems they are facing.  

The On the Ball project gives young men the opportunity to connect with other people with mental health problems and it helps them to socialise, which can combat the social exclusion that is felt by so many with a mental health diagnosis. Since its inception the programme has played a role in the recovery of over 600 young men in the Nottinghamshire region.