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Sport Participation and Happiness Among Older Adults: A Mediating Role of Social Capital

Abstract

As the global population ages rapidly, from a positive aging view, promoting later life through sport participation has been recognized as strategies for maintaining and boosting the social and psychological health of older people. To better understand the role of sport participation among older adults, the primary purpose of the study was to explore the mediating role of social capital on the relationship between sport participation and happiness among older adults. A convenience sample of 208 pickleball participants aged from 50 to 83 years completed a survey. A level of pickleball participation was measured using Serious Leisure Inventory, social capital was measured by cognitive (i.e., feelings of trust and safety) and structural (i.e., community participation, neighborhood connections) social capital, and happiness was measured by a single item scale of general feelings of happiness. After controlling socio-demographic characteristics, results showed that (a) pickleball participation was significantly and positively predicted by general happiness, (b) pickleball participation was significantly and positively predicted by all three elements of social capital, (c) two elements of social capital (i.e., feelings of trust and safety, neighborhood connections) had a significant and positive mediating role on the relationship between pickleball participation and general happiness. We suggest that sport-based social capital intervention can add significant value to older adults’ general happiness for successful aging.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    In the present study, we define physical activity as “bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure” (Caspersen et al. 1985, p. 126) and exercise as “physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and purposive in the sense that improvement or maintenance of one or more components of physical fitness is an objective (Caspersen et al. 1985, p. 128). Sport is defined as “all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organized participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels” (European Sports Charter 2001).

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Kim, A.C.H., Ryu, J., Lee, C. et al. Sport Participation and Happiness Among Older Adults: A Mediating Role of Social Capital. J Happiness Stud 22, 1623–1641 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-020-00288-8

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Keywords

  • Happiness
  • Social capital
  • Sport participation
  • Sport involvement
  • Older adults
  • Successful aging