People who spend the most time playing, researching and thinking about their fantasy football teams may have worse mental health than other players of the online game, a study suggests.
Nottingham Trent University sports psychologists said players who engaged the most with the game were more likely to suffer from low mood and anxiety when playing or thinking about it.
They were also more likely to report disruption to their everyday lives, such as at work, in their home and with personal relationships, the study indicates.
Researchers gathered data from nearly 2,000 fantasy football players. It is thought to be the first study to look at the mental health of those who play the game, where individuals can create their own virtual team to compete against others.
The study, conducted via an online questionnaire, suggested most players experienced no mental health concerns regarding their fantasy football. But there were significant correlations between poor mental health and players’ levels of engagement.
A quarter of participants overall reported mild low mood – which can include sadness, anger, frustration, tiredness and low self-esteem – when playing, researching or thinking about the game.
This increased to 44pc in high-engagement players.
The researchers argue that game developers and players themselves should do more to monitor the amount of time devoted to the game.
Dr Luke Wilkins, an expert in sport and exercise psychology at Nottingham Trent University, said: “While it’s positive that only a minority report mental health issues in relation to their fantasy football, it is concerning that higher levels of engagement appear to increase the likelihood of experiencing issues with mood and anxiety and seem to be having a negative impact on players’ lives.”
The study is published in the journal Human Behaviour and Emerging Technologies.