Can sports events affect suicidal behavior? A review of the literature and implications for prevention

Crisis. 2009;30(3):144-52. doi: 10.1027/0227-5910.30.3.144.


Background: Engagement in sports and physical activity, either actively as an athlete or in a passive way as a spectator, impacts interpersonal behavior and physical and mental health.

Aims: The study reviews literature on the relationship between sports spectatorship and suicidal behavior to ascertain whether sports spectatorship has an impact on suicidal behavior, either increasing the risk or being a protective factor.

Methods: The literature was searched via PubMed/MEDLINE and PsycINFO. Nine studies published between 1986 and 2006 were identified.

Results: The reviewed studies focused on the impact of sports events on the societal level, and analyzed data regarding national or local suicide rates. Their results indicate that sports events can have an impact on suicide mortality and morbidity, but this relationship seems to be mediated by age, gender, marital status, and alcohol consumption, as well as the process and outcome of the game (e.g., victory vs. defeat of the favored team).

Conclusions: There is some evidence that sports events can reduce the rates of suicide on the societal level; however, there is a lack of studies exploring how sports spectatorship might influence levels of suicide risk in individuals and how mediating variables might operate on the individual level.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Athletic Performance
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Imitative Behavior
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Mass Media
  • Motor Activity*
  • Risk
  • Social Identification
  • Sports / psychology*
  • Sports / statistics & numerical data
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data