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Fantasy football can lead to poor mental health for some players – study

Fantasy football is a competition where people choose imaginary teams from the players in a league.

People who put a lot of effort and money into fantasy football could have worse mental health than those who use it less, research suggests.

A new study found more experienced players suffered less anxiety than those who were less experienced, but could have more mental health concerns depending on how much they committed to the game, how much money they spent and how much they compared their team to others.

Researchers found that players who spent a high amount of time comparing their fantasy football team with those of other players reported poorer mental health, while those who frequently checked how their team was performing had poorer mental health than those who did that less.

Experts found, however, there could be a positive impact on mood for people engaged in the game, especially if a team was doing well.

Fantasy football is a competition where people choose imaginary teams from the players in a league and score points according to the actual performance of the players.

Dr Gary Ian Britton, from Queen Mary University of London, who led the research, said: “While the results of the study might seem worrying on the one hand, on the other hand all of these involved/engaged groups also reported more positive mood as a result of playing fantasy football compared to people who are less involved/engaged in the game.

“When your fantasy football team does badly you are more likely to feel down if you are more financially invested in the game, or if you are just invested in the game more generally.

“But equally, if your fantasy football team performs well in any given week, this is going to positively boost the mood of an engaged fantasy football player more than it would the mood of a less engaged player.”

Football floodlights
Football floodlights (Peter Byrne/PA)

Dr Britton said the Premier League should put a warning on its website about the potential negative effects of fantasy football if a player becomes overly invested in the game “be that financially or just in terms of their time”.

The new study, published in the journal Simulation and Gaming, included 635 people.

Most (96%) of them were men, who were typically aged 34.

People were recruited via social media and through two well-known fantasy football websites.

Questions assessed how much time they spent on fantasy football, how much money they spent and whether taking part ever made them feel anxious, stressed or struggle to wind down.

Other questions included how often fantasy football caused them to feel excited or upset, how often they argued with parents and/or partners because of it, and whether people thought their work was impaired due to their commitment to the game.

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