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


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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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Journal of Happiness Studies
1 3
Sport Participation andHappiness Among Older Adults:
AMediating Role ofSocial Capital
AmyChanHyungKim1 · JungsuRyu2· ChungsupLee3· KyungMinKim4·
© Springer Nature B.V. 2020
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 boost-
ing 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 happi-
ness 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 happi-
ness. After controlling socio-demographic characteristics, results showed that (a) pickle-
ball participation was significantly and positively predicted by general happiness, (b) pick-
leball 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 capi-
tal intervention can add significant value to older adults’ general happiness for successful
Keywords Happiness· Social capital· Sport participation· Sport involvement· Older
adults· Successful aging
* Amy Chan Hyung Kim
1 Department ofSport Management, Florida State University, 1026 Tully Gym, 139 Chieftan Way,
Tallahassee, FL32306-4280, USA
2 Department ofSport Management, Marshall University, Huntington, WV, USA
3 Department ofRecreation andLeisure Studies, California State University, LongBeach, CA, USA
4 Department ofKinesiology andSport Sciences, University ofMiami, CoralGables, FL, USA
5 Department ofSport Industry Studies, Yonsei University, Seoul, SouthKorea
A.C.H.Kim et al.
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1 Introduction
According to the World Health Organization (2019), it is expected that the number of
people aged 60years and older will outnumber children under 5years old indicating the
pace of population aging is getting more rapid. When it comes to successful aging, from
a positive aging view developed by Havighurst (1961) based on the activity theory, pro-
moting a physically active lifestyle has been emphasized for maintaining and developing
the social and psychological health of older people (Gilleard and Higgs 2002). Whereas
aging is considered an unavoidable declining process causing fewer social interactions
between the aging individual and others in the social system from the traditional medi-
calized view (Cumming and Henry 1961), a positive aging view recognizes that suc-
cessful aging is possible through being active and continuing social interactions. From
this perspective, many studies have been conducted on promoting later life as a period
of enjoyment, growth, creativity, independence and development, rather than simply
focusing on loneliness, disengagement, and decline (Gergen and Gergen 2001; Tornstam
2005). This line of positive aging literature has stimulated the health promotion move-
ment by government, non-profit organizations, and business corporations all across the
world reflecting a cultural emphasis on sport, physical activity, exercise, recreation, and
leisure as strategies for maintaining and boosting the social and psychological health of
older people (Gilleard and Higgs 2002; McPherson 1999).
In general, happiness refers to a subjective interpretation of one’s life or the situ-
ation one is living in (e.g., Diener etal. 2003; Keyes 1998; Layard 2005) which is an
individual’s comprehensive assessment of both one’s momentary emotions and a broad
cognitive appraisal of their life. Due to a strong connection with an individual’s health
and quality of life, happiness has been a matter of great interest for researchers to study
various populations including older adults. In the extant literature, the majority of the
empirical studies on the link between aging and happiness found a U-shaped relation-
ship among older adults even after controlling socioeconomic status (e.g., Blanchflower
and Oswald 2008; Frijters and Beatton 2012; Godoy-Izquierdo etal. 2013; Graham and
Ruiz Pozuelo 2017). In other words, happiness tends to decline from early adulthood to
the middle adulthood and turns back up as we age. The underlying mechanism of this
U-shaped relationship has been explained as higher aspirations of young adults than
older adults and better skills of older adults to adapt to the unmet aspiration situation
(Schwandt 2016). Nevertheless, Hellevik (2017) disputed that uncritically accepting
the U-shaped relationship between age and happiness without controlling life condition
variables is dangerous. Older adults are more likely to deal with significant life transi-
tions such as loss of a spouse (Holland etal. 2013), physical challenges (Fässberg etal.
2016), isolation or loneliness (Smith 2012), and lose of purpose or life interest (Chris-
tensen etal. 1999), which could impact their happiness.
In the area of public health, social epidemiology is a branch of epidemiology that incor-
porates the social context into explanations of one’s health status. From this perspective,
scholars recognize one’s social factors such as structural characteristics (e.g., social embed-
dedness, social network size, social institutions) or social behaviors or experiences (e.g.,
social support, social engagement, social attachment, social influence) significantly affect
a broad range of psychological states/behaviors and mental health outcomes such as self-
efficacy, self-esteem, depression/distress, emotional regulation, or happiness (Berkman and
Kawachi 2014; Cwikel 2006). Among many, social capital has been investigated as a cru-
cial predictor of general happiness in various populations (Leung etal. 2013).
Sport Participation andHappiness Among Older Adults: AMediating…
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The concept of social capital is much debated due to the nature of interdisciplinary
discourse yet has been considered a critical construct (Onyx and Bullen 2000). While it
has been poorly defined, most definitions of social capital highlight two features that it is
a resource and it is produced through social connections (Kawachi and Berkman 2014).
Thus, it can be defined as “the resources that are accessed by individuals as a result of their
membership of a network or a group (Kawachi and Berkman 2014, p. 291). More specifi-
cally, two key elements—cognitive (what people feel; e.g., trust) and structural (what peo-
ple do; e.g., social participation)—have been discussed and studied actively linked to psy-
chological well-being (Harpham etal. 2002; Marlier etal. 2015; Phongsavan etal. 2006).
For instance, in terms of cognitive social capital, the perceived trust and social support
produced stress-buffering effects by increasing the level of feelings of security, self-esteem
and confidence in one’s coping mechanisms. Interacting with each other, both cognitive
and structural social capital can promote perceptions of friendly, cohesive, and safe socie-
ties which may promote interactions among community members (Kawachi etal. 2004).
A substantial body of research has suggested that social capital is a resource for mental
well-being in older adults. General findings of research have indicated that social capital
was a predictor happiness (Cooper etal. 2011; Litwin 2001; Theurer and Wister 2010), life
satisfaction (Ajrouch etal. 2005; Pan 2018), and quality of life (Bowling and Dieppe 2005;
Chen etal. 2009; Greaves and Farbus 2006; Henriques etal. 2020; Nilsson et al. 2006;
Wiggins etal. 2004).
Compared to individual physical activity or exercise,1 sport participation tends to be an
effective tool for promoting positive social and psychological outcomes due to the social
nature of participation (e.g., Berg etal. 2015). Yet, there are some major gaps among pre-
vious literature on effects of sport involvement among older adults. First, many previous
studies have focused on the effects of physical activity (e.g., walking, gardening, occupa-
tional labor) or exercise (e.g., gym-based trainings) overlooking the effects of sport par-
ticipations among older adults (Kim et al. 2019). Second, while several studies investi-
gated the status and effects of sport participation for children/adolescents (e.g., Craig and
Bauman 2014; Bean and Forneris 2017; Gardner et al. 2017; Lee et al. 2018) or adults
(e.g., Bice etal. 2014; Green 2014), relatively fewer studies investigated its effects for older
adults empirically. Third, the findings are still inconsistent and fragmented due to the lack
of empirical studies (Webb etal. 2017) and more importantly, previous studies tended to
neglect the relationships between the social and psychological outcomes treating them as
two separate and unrelated outcomes of sport participation (e.g., Sato etal. 2016).To fill
these gaps, the primary purpose of this study was to explore the effects of sport participa-
tion (i.e., pickleball) on an individual’s happiness investigating the mediating role of social
capital from a social epidemiological perspective among older adults.
It has been reported that many older adults have participated in different types of sports.
In particular, pickleball has been one of the fastest-growing sports in the US and it is
estimated 2.8 million players are involved nationally (Chen 2017). Although the game is
played mostly as similar to tennis, the area of the court that players have to cover is smaller,
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).
A.C.H.Kim et al.
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and the ball is much lighter which makes it particularly accessible to older adults (Chen
2017). The Senior Olympics—a multi-sport event for older adults held annually in every
state in the US—has also contributed significantly to the growth of pickleball. The growth
of pickleball is attributed to an influx of baby boomers and to the activity’s mild learning
curve, which has opened doors for many older adults to participate in athletic competitions
(Williamson 2016).
2 Hypotheses Development
While no studies have examined the relationship between sport participation and happi-
ness, studies of physical activity and exercise have found a positive effect on happiness
among older adults. In the study of Khazaee-Pool etal. (2015), it was found that a physical
exercise program contributes to the level of happiness among older adults. While older
adults who participated in the 8-week physical exercise program significantly reported
improving happiness, the control group who did not involve in the program showed no
changes in happiness. In addition, Menec (2003) demonstrated that engaging in sports or
games is a significant predictor of happiness among older adults and Barreto (2014) found
that physical activity is indirectly related to happiness which was mediated by older adults’
social functioning and health status. According to Lera-López etal. (2017), leisure-time
physical activity is also positively associated with happiness among older adults and per-
ceived health mediates this association. Hence, the following hypothesis was established:
Hypothesis 1 One’s pickleball participation will be positively associated with general
Along with the effects of sport participation on happiness, previous research has shown
the positive relationship between sport participation and social capital among older adults.
Toepoel (2013) found that sport activity significantly predicts social connectedness among
older adults. According to a qualitative study of Komatsu etal. (2017), it has also shown
that community-based regular physical activity is significantly related to social connect-
edness and mutual support among older adults. The participants reported that they feel a
sense of safety within the community as well as start supporting each other feeling socially
connected through the regular community-based physical activity program. Therefore, the
following hypotheses were established:
Hypothesis 2 One’s pickleball participation will be positively associated with social
Hypothesis 2‑a One’s pickleball participation will be positively associated with commu-
nity participation.
Hypothesis 2‑b One’s pickleball participation will be positively associated with feelings
of trust and safety.
Hypothesis 2‑c One’s pickleball participation will be positively associated with neighbor-
hood connections.
Sport Participation andHappiness Among Older Adults: AMediating…
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To date, the empirical evidences supporting the positive relationship between social
capital and happiness is overwhelming (e.g., Bjørnskov 2008; Dolan etal. 2008; Hudson
2006; Leung etal. 2011; Matsushima and Matsunaga 2015; Tsuruta et al. 2019). In sum,
the following hypotheses were established:
Hypothesis 3 One’s social capital will be positively associated with general happiness.
Hypothesis 3‑a One’s community participation will be positively associated with general
Hypothesis 3‑b One’s feelings of trust and safety will be positively associated with gen-
eral happiness.
Hypothesis 3‑c One’s neighborhood connections will be positively associated with gen-
eral happiness.
Hypothesis 4 One’s social capital will positively mediate the relationship between pickle-
ball participation and general happiness.
Hypothesis 4‑a One’s community participation will positively mediate the relationship
between pickleball participation and general happiness.
Hypothesis 4‑b One’s feelings of trust and safety will positively mediate the relationship
between pickleball participation and general happiness.
Hypothesis 4‑c One’s neighborhood connections will positively mediate the relationship
between pickleball participation and general happiness.
3 Methods
3.1 Participants
A convenience sample was recruited from an annual international pickleball tournament
in a southern state in the United States. This tournament is known as one of the largest
pickleball tournament in the world. The researchers set up a booth to administer the survey
during the event. Respondents were approached to complete a paper and pencil survey. All
participants were invited to voluntarily participate in the study. Participants were briefly
introduced to the purpose and procedure of the study in which anonymity of the data were
ensured. It took approximately 10 to 15min to complete the questionnaire. The Institu-
tional Review Board at Texas A&M University approved this process.
Of the 218 surveys retrieved, 10 cases were excluded because of incomplete responses.
The final sample included 208 cases which consisted of 112 males (53.6%) and 96 females
(46.4%). Considering that the gender proportion of the event population was 57% of male
and 43% of female, the sample’s gender proportion was similar to the population. Age of
the samples ranged from 50 to 83years (M = 64.11, SD = 6.56). The age breakdown of the
samples was also somewhat similar to the age breakdown of the population in that nearly
half of participants were aged between 60 and 69. According to the association, a total of
A.C.H.Kim et al.
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922 players (50years and older) participated in the event. Among them, a total of 37%
were aged between 50 and 59, a total of 46% were aged between 60 and 69, and a total of
17% were aged more than 70. In our sample, a total of 25% were aged between 50 and 59,
a total of 52.9% were aged between 60 and 69, and a total of 22.1% were aged between 70
and over. A majority of participants identified themselves as Caucasians (93.2%). A total
of 34.3% of the participants had a college education and 35.3% held a graduate degree.
Most participants were married (81.6%) and 77.9% of participants indicated that they were
retired. About 58.1% of participants identified as an intermediate player rating 3 or 3.5
for their skill ratings. The skill rating is a self-rated score ranging from 1.0 to 5.5 with
half-point increments and a higher rating indicates a higher level of skills (United States
America Pickleball Association 2019). More detailed demographic characteristics of the
respondents are presented in Table1.
3.2 Measures
3.2.1 Pickleball Participation
The level of pickleball participation was measured using six items adopted from Serious
Leisure Inventory Measures which has been widely used and validated by previous stud-
ies (Gould etal. 2008, 2011). Respondents were asked to rate, on a scale from 1 (strongly
disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), the degree to which they were involved in and committed
to playing pickleball. Higher scores indicated more involvement in pickleball as a serious
participant. The six items assessed the central characteristics of serious leisure (i.e., per-
severance, career contingency, career progress, effort, unique ethos, identification). Sam-
ple items includes ‘I overcome difficulties in pickleball by being persistent’ (perseverance)
and ‘I try hard to become more competent in pickleball’ (effort). As noted by Gould etal.
(2011), the measure was used as an additive index to demonstrate variation in the levels of
seriousness. The total score of six items were averaged (M = 4.10, SD = 0.59). Internal con-
sistency reliability was established with Cronbach’s alpha (α = 0.812).
3.2.2 Social Capital
Perceived social capital was measured by nine items adapted from the original 36-item
questionnaire developed by Onyx and Bullen (2000). Adopted items assessed both cogni-
tive (i.e., feelings of trust and safety) and structural social capital (i.e., community partici-
pation, neighborhood connections). This 9-item questionnaire was validated and employed
by the previous studies (e.g., Flores etal. 2013; O’Brien et al. 2004; Papastavrou etal.
2015; Phongsavan etal. 2006). The instrument was designed to measure three central con-
structs by three items each. The example questions include “Are you an active member of
a local organization or club (e.g., sport, craft, social club)?” (community participation),
“Do you feel safe walking down your street after dark” or “Do you agree that most peo-
ple can be trusted?” (feelings of trust and safety) and “If you were caring for a child and
needed to go out for a while, would you ask a neighbor for help?” (neighborhood connec-
tions and reciprocity). Each item was assessed with a 4-point Likert-type scale ranging
from 1 (no, not at all) to 4 (yes, very much). The Cronbach’s alpha values of the first-order
constructs were 0.717 (community participation), 0.750 (feelings of trust and safety), and
0.703 (neighborhood connections and reciprocity) respectively indicating acceptable con-
sistency (Hair etal. 2006).
Sport Participation andHappiness Among Older Adults: AMediating…
1 3
3.2.3 Happiness
The single item scale developed and validated by Abdel-Khalek (2006) was used to
measure general feelings of happiness. Responses to one question “Do you feel happy
in general” were ranged from 1(minimum) to 10 (maximum). A higher score indicates a
greater level of happiness. As previous studies have argued, since we assessed a unidi-
mensional construct (i.e., how happy do you feel), this single item scale deemed appro-
priate (Cheung and Lucas 2014; Erreygers etal. 2019; Fisher and To 2012; Rodríguez-
Muñoz etal. 2014).
Table 1 Demographic
characteristics of the study
participants (n = 208)
Characteristics n%
50–59 52 25.0
60–69 110 52.9
70 and over 46 22.1
Female 96 46.4
Male 112 53.6
High school 21 10.2
College 108 52.2
Graduate school 73 35.3
Other 5 2.4
Employed 45 21.6
Retired 162 77.9
Temporarily unemployed 1 0.5
Caucasian 191 93.2
Hispanic 7 3.4
African American 2 1.0
Asian 4 2.0
Others 1 0.5
Marital status
Married/partnered 169 81.6
Divorced 19 9.2
Single 14 6.8
Widowed 5 2.4
Pickleball skill rating
Under 3 28 15.2
3 54 29.3
3.5 53 28.8
4 29 15.8
Over 4 20 10.8
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3.3 Covariates
Age, gender, education, marital status and occupation were included in the analysis as
control variables since those socio-demographic variables has been found to be asso-
ciated with happiness and social capital. While there is a lack of consensus on how
social capital varies across the life course, literature has shown the significant relation-
ship between age and social capital either positively or negatively (McDonald and Mair
2010; Nilsson etal. 2006). Gender difference in social capital has also revealed that the
associations vary based on different life experiences of men and women (Ajrouch etal.
2005; McDonald and Mair 2010). For education level, past research has shown that edu-
cation is strongly and positively correlated with individual social capital (Alesina, and
Ferrara 2000; Huang etal. 2009). Also, Nakhaie and Kazemipur (2013) showed a sig-
nificant relationship between social capital and employment while Shapiro and Keyes
(2008) found a significant association between marital status and social well-being.
Even though the effects of socio-demographic variables on happiness vary, the signifi-
cant relationships have been found (Fortin etal. 2015; Frey and Stutzer 2010; Helliwell
and Putnam 2004). According to the study of Gerdtham and Johannesson (2001), for
example, happiness is positively related to education level and negatively related to gen-
der (i.e., men), marital (i.e., single) and occupational (i.e., unemployed) status.
3.4 Analyses
Using Statistical Package for the Social Science (SPSS, version 22), Pearson correla-
tion coefficients were calculated to examine the directionality of relationships between
the study variables. Regression analyses were used to estimate path coefficients. In each
analysis, path a connects the predictor variable Pickleball Participation (PP) with three
subconstructs of the mediating variable Social Capital (SC); path b links three subcon-
structs of the mediating variable SC (SC-Community, SC-Trust and Safety, SC-Neigh-
borhood) to the outcome variable Happiness; and path c’ links the predictor variable PP
with the outcome variable Happiness considering the mediating variable SC whereas
path c presents the total effect of the predictor variable PP on the outcome variable Hap-
piness. The indirect effect was assessed as the product of the a and b path coefficients.
In order to test the mediating effects, we implemented Hayes bootstrapping approach
using the PROCESS macro Version 3.3 (Hayes 2017). This approach uses 5000 boot-
strap samples for bias correction to set the 95% confidence intervals (CIs). A 95% CI
that does not include zero shows indirect effects that are significantly different from zero
(p < 0.05).
4 Results
Table2 presents descriptive statistics and Pearson correlation coefficients of the study
variables. Pickleball participation was significantly positively associated with three
subdimensions of social capital (r = 0.342, p < 0.001; r = 0.303, p < 0.001; r = 0.215,
p < 0.01) and general happiness (r = 0.263, p < 0.001). All three subdimensions of
social capital were significantly positively associated with general happiness (r = 0.242,
p < 0.001; r = 0.279, p < 0.001; r = 0.181, p < 0.01).
Sport Participation andHappiness Among Older Adults: AMediating…
1 3
The results of regression analysis showed that general happiness was significantly
predicted by pickleball participation (adjusted R2 = 0.113, F[7, 195] = 4.67, p < 0.001)
but not by community participation. In addition, general happiness was significantly
predicted by feelings of trust and safety (adjusted R2 = 0.136, F[7,195] = 5.53, p < 0.001)
and neighborhood connections (adjusted R2 = 0.127, F[7,195] = 5.18, p < 0.001). There-
fore, hypotheses 1 and 2-a through 2-c were supported whereas only hypotheses 3-b and
3-c were supported.
The Fig.1a through c shows the results of mediation analyses of social capital on pick-
leball participation and happiness. As shown in Fig.1a, because general happiness was not
significantly predicted by community participation, the mediation effect was not signifi-
cant. Hence, hypothesis 4-a was not supported. But the indirect effects of pickleball par-
ticipation to general happiness through feelings of trust and safety (ß = 0.099, SE = 0.0.46,
95% BCa CI [0.022, 0.203]) and neighborhood connections (ß = 0.060, SE = 0.0.44, 95%
BCa CI [0.002, 0.170]) were significantly positive indicating hypotheses 4-b and 4-c were
5 Discussion
The primary aim of this study was to explore the mediating role of social capital on the
relationship between sport participation and happiness among older adults. We investigated
the indirect effects of pickleball participation on general happiness through three subdi-
mensions of social capital including community participation, feelings of trust and safety,
and neighborhood connections after controlling socio-demographic characteristics (i.e.,
age, gender, education, occupation, marital status).
The findings suggested that pickleball participation was significantly and positively pre-
dicted by general happiness among older adults. This finding supports previous studies of
sport participation and positive psychological outcomes. For instance, sport participation
could predict older adults’ positive subjective well-being (Heo etal. 2018), positive mood
state, and fewer depressive symptoms (Bardhoshi etal. 2016; Muller etal. 2011; Ostlund-
Lagerstrom etal. 2015). Given that one of the most commonly identified outcomes were
fewer depressive symptoms among children/adolescents and reduced stress and distress
among adults who participated in sport programs (Eime et al. 2013a, b), some incon-
sistent results have been found among older sport participants. For instance, Hoar et al.
(2012) found that roughly 70 per cent of the sample composed of older master athletes who
Table 2 Descriptive statistics and person correlation coefficients of study variables
PP playing pickleball, SC-Com social capital—community participation, SC-Trust social capital—feelings
of trust and safety, SC-Nei social capital—neighborhood connections
*p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001
Variable 1 2 3 4 5 M(SD)
1. PP 1 .342*** .303*** .215** .263*** 4.10 (.59)
2. SC-Com 1 .289*** .210** .242*** 3.12 (.70)
3. SC-Trust 1 .225** .279*** 3.41 (.50)
4. SC-Nei 1 .181** 3.22 (.78)
5. Happiness 1 8.64 (1.13)
A.C.H.Kim et al.
1 3
participate in a Senior Games reported pre-competitive stress derived from performance,
logistics, novelty, preparation, and health. Even though the positive relationship between
pickleball participation and happiness was found in our study, it would be noteworthy to
investigate the level of stress depending on the various factors (e.g., personality, competi-
tion level) among older sport participants in the future.
The present study is distinctive from the previous studies in that we investigated the
mediating role of social capital on the relationship between sport participation and one’s
general happiness. While many previous studies investigated the effects of sport partici-
pation on either social outcomes or psychological outcomes treating these two separate
outcomes, we tested the potential link between social capital and happiness from a social
epidemiological perspective. Our findings suggest that two subdimensions of social capital
(i.e., feelings of trust and safety, neighborhood connections) has a significant and positive
mediating role on the relationship between pickleball participation and general happiness
among older adults. One subdimension of social capital – community participation was
Fig. 1 a Mediation analysis of social capital (community participation) on pickleball participation and gen-
eral happiness. This model presents nonsignificant indirect effects. b Mediation analysis of social capital
(feelings of trust and safety) on pickleball participation and general happiness. This model presents sig-
nificantly positive indirect effects: β = .099, SE = .0.46, 95% BCa CI [.022, .203]. *p < .05, **p < .01,
***p < .001. c Mediation analysis of social capital (neighborhood connections) on pickleball participation
and general happiness. This model presents significantly positive indirect effects: β = .060, SE = .0.44, 95%
BCa CI [.002, .170]. *p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001
Sport Participation andHappiness Among Older Adults: AMediating…
1 3
not a significant predictor of happiness nor a significant mediator. This finding is some-
what consistent with the findings of Phongsavan etal. (2006). In their study, only two ele-
ments of social capital (i.e., feelings of trust and safety, neighborhood connections) were
significantly associated with levels of psychological distress after controlling for relevant
socio-demographic factor, health-related behavior and health status whereas community
participation was not a significant predictor. The present study did not assess the nature or
quantity of community participation. It is possible that this relationship was not observed
due to the way of assessment. Opportunities to participate in community activities may be
infrequent in some settings depending on the different geographical areas or different time
of the year. Differently designed assessments of this subconstruct may be able to observe
the relationship in future studies.
In our study, sport participants were recruited at the sport event. The finding was con-
sistent with previous studies showing that sport event participation as a participant can be
beneficial for one’s psychological well-being (e.g., Sato etal. 2016). Nonetheless, there
are many sport participants who are involved in local sport leagues or community-based
sport programs but are not necessarily involved in sport events. Considering the distinctive
nature of these programs such as regular and continuous involvement opportunities, these
sport participants may obtain different types of social benefits such as a sense of commu-
nity that can affect one’s psychological well-being in a different way. A sense of commu-
nity is defined as an environmental or community characteristic that results in individuals
feeling a sense of belonging at the group-level (Sarason 1974). A sense of community is
significant in that it can promote desirable health outcomes among older adults such as
life satisfaction (Zhang etal. 2017), lower incidences of depression, (Tang etal. 2015),
and higher levels of well-being (Zhang etal. 2018). There have been a few conceptual
studies and a scale development study that describe how a sense of community can be
shaped through sport participation and how it can be measured (Warner etal. 2013). How-
ever, there have been no empirical studies that investigate the relationship between a sense
of community shaped through sport program participation and the various resulting psy-
chological health-related outcomes. Distinguishing between the outcomes of sport event
participation and sport program participation at the local level would clarify the different
underlying mechanisms of “sport for health” among older adults.
This study provides empirical support that dimensions of social capital have strong con-
nections with psychological status and well-being, therefore increasing the power of the
construct for intervention purposes. In spite of many research on social capital and health,
there have been only a few intervention studies (Villalonga-Olives et al. 2018). Social
capital and health interventions that are designed to improve health through social capital
enhancement are promising yet an unexplored answer to address the influence of social
capital on health. When it comes to social capital interventions, there are two different
levels of target: the individual level social capital (e.g., increased informal interactions)
and the community level social capital (e.g., neighborhood spaces to enhance a community
identity) A systematic review of social capital interventions and health showed that various
types of interventions (yet only few) including environmental change at the school work,
and/or municipal level, interventions promoting management and leadership development,
network interventions, interventions based on dialogue and reflective thinking (see Villa-
longa-Olives etal. 2018). There was only one study that ran a 10-week physical exercise
program for promoting multilevel social capital. At the community level, workers partici-
pated in a 10-week group-based physical exercise program, and at the individual level, an
individual did physical exercise at home during leisure time (Andersen etal. 2015). Our
findings suggest that sport programs can be an effective tool as a multilevel social capital
A.C.H.Kim et al.
1 3
intervention for health among older adults and recognize the considerable need of future
sport-based social capital intervention research. At the community level, participating in
regular local-based sport programs or leagues can strengthen neighborhood network and
support. Furthermore, well-designed programs with purposeful strategies such as mentor-
based sport programs may boost individual social capital resulting in positive health behav-
iors and outcomes. For instance, using college students or peers to mentor older adults
sport programs may enhance individual health through increased physical activity or self-
esteem (Lee and Choi 2016).
In the similar context, even though this study found a positive relationship between the
level of sport involvement and general happiness after controlling some socio-demographic
factors such as age, gender, education, marital status and occupation, this study was cross-
sectional and non-experimental studies indicating lack of internal validity. Even though
there have been many physical activity or exercise-based intervention studies among
older adults or sport-based intervention studies for children/adolescents (Pan etal. 2016;
Werch etal. 2003; Williams etal. 2015), there is no sport-based intervention studies for
older adults so far. More rigorous research designs such as longitudinal and experimental
design need to be employed in the future in order to confirm the positive effect of sport
The positive effect of sport participation on social capital appears self-evident because
sport can be an effective platform for people to socialize and broaden their social net-
works and relationships. Nevertheless, several scholars have cautioned that the relation-
ship between sport participation and social capital can be more complex highlighting the
dark side of it such as social segregation (Crow 2004). The networks formed via sport
involvement could serve as constraints excluding non-members because social solidarity
of groups has been linked to the exclusivity of group (Crow 2004). For instance, DeLuca
(2013) investigated how upper middle-class families obtain, transmit, and preserve their
social capitals through swim and tennis club membership using ethnographic approach.
The author argued that the sport club was a significant but hidden platform that these
upper middle-class members can facilitate their social class and race-based privilege.
Through enhanced level of a sense of community and belonging among members as well
as increased special social learning opportunities provided by the sport club, the members
could produce of their privileged habitus. This dark side of sport involvement for social
capital needs to be considered for sport-based interventions among older adults in order to
diminish negative health effects of social capital (Villalonga-Olives and Kawachi 2017).
In this study, we used the instrument for serious leisure to measure the level of sport
participation among older adults. Even though various instruments have been developed
and validated to assess the sport participation of children and adolescents such as Sports
Participation and Attitudes Questionnaire for Children and Adolescents (Donaldson and
Ronan 2006), there has been no attempt to develop new instruments to assess the level of
sport participation and related behavioral patterns for older adults or to modify the previous
ones of younger generations to older generations. For instance, Kim and colleagues (2019)
recognized the unique values of sport participation among older adults such as resistance
to the negative view of aging and value of being competitive in sport activities. Neverthe-
less, there is no instrument that address these characteristics that can be derived from the
distinctive aging-related variables for sport participation. Therefore, further development
and use of instruments for older adults’ sport involvement is required.
In the similar context, several studies including the present study conceptualized and
operationalized the construct of serious leisure to study the older adults’ serious sport
involvement (e.g., Heo etal. 2018). The majority of study participants in our study was
Sport Participation andHappiness Among Older Adults: AMediating…
1 3
serious sport participants (M = 4.07, SD = 3.85). Serious leisure is characterized differently
from casual leisure based on six attributes: (a) need to preserve at the activity, (b) devel-
opment of a leisure career, (c) need to put in effort to gain skill and knowledge, (d) gain-
ing social and personal benefits, (e) unique ethos and social world, and (f) an attractive
personal and social identity (Stebbins, 2007). Despite the fact that this construct and rel-
evant instrument may be advantageous to for investigating the devoted sport participants,
it is challenging to explore the characteristics at the other end (i.e., casual leisure partici-
pants, newcomers). As Baker etal. (2010) argued, more studies need to investigate the
antecedents and consequences of individuals who are motivated to participate in sports in
their later years. For example, few studies found that competitive sport participation for
late starters tended to build a new or alternative personal identity as a winner and a highly
physically active person. Further studies are necessary to develop conceptual and theoreti-
cal frameworks and relevant instruments to explore what affects the advent of this new
identity and how it influences the late starters’ lives more in depth among newcomers and
casual older sport participants.
5.1 Study Limitations
First, because this study was cross-sectional and correlational, we cannot establish a causal
effect, or we cannot rule out the possibility of reverse causality between social capital and
happiness or sport participation and social capital. For instance, perceiving community to
be untrustworthy or the absences of social interactions with neighborhood can be a conse-
quence of happiness (Ljunge 2018). In the similar sense, individuals who perceive commu-
nity to be trustworthy and who tends to actively interact with neighborhood may be more
likely to play sports with other people. Therefore, as we discussed above, more interven-
tion-based studies and longitudinal studies should be conducted in the future to confirm the
causal relationships among sport participation, social capital, and happiness.
In addition, the findings were drawn from a convenience sample which was predomi-
nantly composed of Caucasians whose educational levels were relatively high. Even
though we could compare the gender and age proportions of our samples and the whole
event participants, any other demographic characteristics of all participants (e.g., ethnicity,
educational level) were not available. Nearly half of the event population and our sam-
ples were players aged between 60 and 69 which is categorized as relatively the “young-
old” population. Even though the age was included as a covariate in this study, it would be
beneficial to investigate if there is any different relationships between sport participation,
social capital, and happiness among the “middle-old” population (70 to 79years), and the
“old-old” (80years and older) population in the future. Additionally, it has been noted that
levels of social capital vary depending on geographical variations (Mohan etal. 2005).
While this study controlled significant socio-demographic variables, each participant’s
geographical location was not controlled because the research participants were recruited
at the international-level sport event. Future studies can benefit from demographically and
geographically diverse samples.
The present study recruited pickleball players to investigate the role of sport participa-
tion on happiness among older adults. Yet, as Asztalos etal. (2012) suggested, different
types of sport participation may have different effects on mental health. For instance, Asz-
talos etal. (2012) explored 19 different types of sports to examine the gender differences in
mental health status. Among these sports, some sport types may be also applicable to older
adults such as golf, ball games (e.g., softball, basketball, volleyball) or racket sports (e.g.,
A.C.H.Kim et al.
1 3
tennis, squash, table tennis). Future studies may explore the effects of sport participation
on psychological well-being among older adults according to the different types of sport
6 Conclusions
This study provides important insights into the role of sport participation in older adults’
happiness and the role of social capital in this relationship. Regression analyses disclosed
that sport participation and both cognitive social capital (i.e., feelings of trust and safety)
and structural social capital (neighborhood connections) significantly predict one’s general
happiness. Playing pickleball as a sport involvement would add significant value to older
adults’ daily psychological well-being status which can contribute to successful aging. In
the future, sport-based social capital intervention studies would be helpful to confirm the
causal effect of sport involvement on one’s happiness and other psychological well-being
indicators among older adults.
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... The health benefits of participation in sports also vary across different age groups (Eime et al., 2013a(Eime et al., , 2013bJenkin et al., 2017;Vella et al., 2017;Bedard et al., 2020;Harlow et al., 2020;Kim et al., 2020;Panza et al., 2020). The following sections summarise literature on the specific health benefits of participation in sports, for children, adolescents, adults and older adults. ...
... For older adults, participation in sports has been associated with a range of positive health outcomes and several studies have highlighted that participation can be a vehicle to negotiate the negative stereotypes of ageing (Jenkin et al., 2017;Chan Hyung Kim et al., 2020). Participation in sports by older adults has been associated with improved life satisfaction; lower depression, anxiety and stress; positive mood state; and other personal psychological outcomes such as personal empowerment, self-confidence and self-esteem (Chan Hyung Kim et al., 2020). Participation in sports by older adults has been shown to be positively associated with general happiness, social capital including feelings of trust and safety, and neighbourhood connections . ...
... Researchers believe social capital is a key factor in older adults' well-being [63,[65][66][67][68]. Despite its significance, however, researchers call for a more nuanced understanding of the role of social capital in older adults' well-being in different contexts [63,65,68]. ...
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The ability to adaptively cope with the challenges of stressful events such as the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial for healthy aging. One effective coping strategy is social coping in which social networks are tapped for support. However, our review of the current literature on older adults’ coping abilities reveals two shortcomings: (1) a lack of consideration of a specific context and (2) an inadequate amount of attention paid to the different types of social networks in the cognitive appraisal process. As coping is a process in which older adults undergo the cognitive appraisal process to identify appropriate coping strategies, the shortcomings result in an incomplete understanding of older adults’ coping efforts and impair the development of effective community and intervention programs to improve older adults’ well-being. To fill this gap, drawing on the Transactional Model of Stress and Coping and the Social Capital Theory, we conducted 22 interviews with older adults who experienced lockdown measures during COVID-19. Our in-depth qualitative analysis shows the different roles played by bonding and bridging social capital in the cognitive appraisal process and illustrates the influence of a specific context on cognitive appraisals and subsequent coping efforts. Our findings provide significant contributions to theories regarding coping and social capital, as well as practices and policies for improving the well-being of older adults.
... strengthening self-esteem) and social benefits such as decreasing social isolation and reinforcing social identity (e.g. Appleby & Dieffenbach, 2016;Kim et al., 2020). ...
... Participants who reported ≥2 cups of fruit and ≥2 cups of vegetables on a typical day were defined as meeting recommendations for fruit consumption and vegetable consumption, respectively. Sense of community and belonging was measured using a modified version of the Sense of Community in Sport (SCS) Scale [43], which has been used to assess sense of community and belonging in a variety of community settings and age groups [43][44][45][46]. This scale consists of 21 items assessing 6 subscales (administrative consideration, common interest, competition, equity in administrative decisions, leadership opportunities, and social spaces) of sense of community and belonging in social spaces, and each participant was asked to specify the degree to which they felt each item was "true" on a 4-point Likert scale ranging from "Not true at all" to "Completely true." ...
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Participant engagement, psychosocial factors, and dietary behaviors are important components of “Food as Medicine” and cooking education programs. The purpose of this study is to describe a multidisciplinary cooking program at a Federally Qualified Health Center in central Texas. During biannual harvest seasons (2022–2023), patients participated in four or six weekly 1.5 h hands-on cooking classes with shared meals, education, and produce delivery. Pretest–posttest surveys assessed sociodemographic information, health, psychosocial factors, and dietary behaviors; follow-up assessed group cohesion/sense of community in classes. Survey data were described using means and proportions. Across four cohorts, participants (n = 33; mean age: 45 ± 16 years) were 30% Hispanic/Latino, 18% non-Hispanic Black, and 52% non-Hispanic White; on average, participants attended 66% of sessions. Increases in cooking self-efficacy (p < 0.001) and diet-related self-management strategies (p < 0.001) were observed for those with follow-up data (n = 16); further, 44% reported increased vegetable consumption. All participants (100%) reported feeling like a valued member of their cooking group and 94% reported high levels of belonging. In a diverse community health center serving low-income patients, provision of produce and cooking education classes supported strategies to improve diet-related confidence, skills, and behavior. Cross-sector partnership within a health care setting may help patients and physicians prioritize nutrition and food access.
... However, the total effects of mindfulness on life satisfaction and happiness were significant. There is a substantial amount of empirical findings suggesting that SC is essential for both life satisfaction (e.g., Crowley and Walsh, 2021;Elgar et al., 2011;Lu and Wu, 2022) and happiness (e.g., Kim et al., 2021;Kislev, 2020). In the present study, our correlation matrix shows significant relations between SC and the well-being variables. ...
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Refugees experience numerous psychological and social problems associated with experiences in their homecountries, during asylum-seeking, and conditions in their new environment. Therefore, refugees are likely toexperience a decline in psychological and social capital, negatively affecting their well-being. Mindfulness is aknown trait-like attribute that is associated with superior well-being outcomes. The present correlational studyinvestigated the mediating role of psychological and social capital in the association between mindfulness andwell-being outcomes (life satisfaction and happiness) among refugees in resource-constrained settlements in Uganda. As part of the RESS-R (Refugee Entrepreneurship and Skilling for Self-Reliance) project, 576 refugees from rural settlements and urban locations took part in the study. The results of the structural equation model revealed that mindfulness was positively associated with psychological and social capital. However, only psychological capital had a mediating effect in the relationship between mindfulness and the well-being variables. Our findings provide insights into the relationships between positive psychological attributes and well-being outcomes among refugees living in resource-constrained settings.
This study aimed to explore the experiences of older adults engaged in pickleball. In particular, we collected views from the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) ambassadors to identify how their experiences facilitate successful aging. A qualitative case study was utilized to obtain naturalistic data. Purposive sampling was used to recruit a total of 15 USAPA ambassadors, all of whom were interviewed in person. Data were analyzed using interpretive thematic analysis, and four overarching themes were generated: (a) a new way to stay active, (b) pickleball is social, (c) an intergenerational pastime, and (d) reestablishing an identity through pickleball. The findings support the view that engaging in pickleball is a promising means of achieving a healthy life as a senior citizen. The participants maintained a physically and mentally active lifestyle through pickleball, and their commitment to this sport led to their engagement as ambassadors in their communities.
Pickleball offers sociopsychological and physical activity benefits for older adults but lacks racial diversity. The purpose of this study was to identify constraints to pickleball participation with Black older adults (65+ years) as well as examine differences based on physical activity and sex. A Qualtrics panel included Black older adults ( N = 292) who have heard of pickleball and are physically able to play but have not played. Results found Knowledge, Accessibility, Interpersonal, and Interest were the most salient constraints overall. Multivariate analysis of variance found that those who report low physical activity had significantly higher Interpersonal, Psychological, Costs, and Perceived Racism constraints. Additionally, females report significantly higher Knowledge, Psychological, and Cost constraints compared to males. The results further the theoretical application of constraints to physical activity research and provide insights into practitioner implications to grow the sport of pickleball for Black older adults.
Introduction: The sport of rugby union, (henceforth rugby), is associated with a risk of spinal cord injury (SCI). Perceived risks can impact participation. Understanding community perspectives of rugby-related SCI may provide insight for addressing concerns around risk. The aim of this study was to explore community perspectives through social media discussion about SCI in rugby union. Methods: Posts about SCI in rugby union were identified using the advanced search function on Twitter. Data (content as original post, retweet, quote tweet and comments) were included if focused on Rugby Union and written in English. Inclusion dates (July 2018 to June 2019) were chosen to capture a period when several SCI (n = 4) occurred in community rugby in Australia. Data were analysed using a thematic approach. Results: Four themes were derived from the collected data. The 'pendulum swing' relates to the disparate views of rugby, from being overly cautious to too dangerous to play. The 'role of rugby culture' described engrained behaviours and attitudes on and off-field toward safety. 'Media influence' describes the emotive narrative used when reporting rugby-related SCI. 'After the injury' looks at expressions of sympathy and inspiration. These findings showed how individuals' views of SCI were influenced through rugby culture, trust in governing bodies and the news media. Conclusion: By 'listening in' to community views, their most pertinent safety concerns can be addressed. Both facts and fears on rugby-related SCI were evident and these extreme views can be balanced with evidence-based education and sensible risk management.
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Objective (s): Due to the rapid growth of the country's elderly population, the need to pay attention to social participation as one of the determinants of health and modifiable in the process of active aging is very important. Thus, the aim of study was to determine the level of social participation, barriers, and related factors in the elderly people of Mazandaran province, Iran. Methods: In this descriptive-study, 421 elderly people over 60 years old in Mazandaran province were selected by stratified and cluster random sampling. The data collection tools were a demographic characteristics questionnaire, a researcher-made questionnaire of social participation, and the Social Participation Barriers. Data were analyzed by SPSS v24 using independent t-test, one-way ANOVA, Pearson correlation coefficient, and linear regression at a significant level of P<0.05. Results: The mean age of the samples was 72.55 (8.81) years, and the mean score of social participation was 22.87)11.81(. The highest level of participation was related to the cultural-religious dimension 8.43)4.46) and the lowest level was related to the political activity dimension 3.76(2.44). Being out of reach (86.7%), lack of physical accessibility of activity and facilities (83.6%), impatience (83.1%), costs and financial problems (82.7%), and diseases and health problems (80%) were respectively the most important barriers to social participation. The male elderly with low age, employed, and college-educated had significantly better scores of social participation (P<0.05). According to the regression analysis, 59% of the variance of social participation was explained by age, education, and gender. Conclusion: The social participation level of the elderly in Mazandaran was low. Therefore, the need for policy-making and the design of comprehensive programs, and developing a proper environment to reduce barriers, seems important to improve social participation in elderly.
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Background: The social participation (SP) of the elderly is one of the factors that contribute to the improvement of their well-being. SP, one of the most important factors of active ageing, is mainly influenced by a number of facilitating or inhibiting factors. Aims: This study aimed to identify the factors that prevent and facilitate the SP of the elderly population in Iran. Methods: A cross-sectional study carried out in Shiraz, southern Iran in 2021. Participants were selected using a convenience sampling method. Shiraz is divided into 11 districts and the largest park in each district is selected for data gathering. The questionnaires were completed by 612 people aged over 60. Data were collected using the Canadian Elderly Survey Project scale and a health-related lifestyle questionnaire and were analyzed using t-test, ANOVA, Pearson’s correlation, and ANCOVA. Results: The mean SP score of the elderly in Shiraz was 24.2 out of 60, which is below the midpoint. The results of the covariance analysis revealed that the SP had a significant relationship with the experience of physician consultation, cost barriers, age, marital status, income level, and education level (P < 0.001). Moreover, the results of Pearson correlation revealed a significant correlation between SP and different dimensions of health-oriented activities (< 0.001). Conclusions: This study revealed that the main barriers to older people’s participation in health-related activities are cost and access barriers, such as transportation issues. Moreover, higher income level and higher educational attainment have been recognized as the main facilitators of SP in the elderly. In this regard, it can be suggested to apply a combination of health promotion strategies, financial support programs, and development of optimal transportation infrastructure to increase the SP of the elderly.
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Sport participation is well known to promote health outcomes for children and adolescents. Nevertheless, there is insufficient evidence about the psychological and social outcomes of sport participation for older adults. This article provides the results of a systematic review of the psychological and social outcomes of sport participation for older adults. A systematic review of seven electronic databases was conducted and a total of 21 studies published that attended to psychological and/or social health benefits from sport participation of older adults (50 years old and over) were included. The outcomes of older adults’ sport participation included life satisfaction, depression, anxiety, stress, mood state, hedonistic values, socialisation, competition, and personal psychological outcomes such as personal empowerment, self-confidence, self-esteem and resistance to the negative view of ageing. Future studies are needed to conceptualise and operationalise the different levels of involvement of sport participation.
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The influence of social capital on happiness is attracting attention around the world. Many studies that investigated the relationship between social capital and happiness suggest that happiness correlates to a positive social environment. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between social capital and happiness in a community with the lowest National Health Insurance expenditures in Miyazaki Prefecture (Japan). This cross‐sectional study targeted 2730 residents in the community aged 40–75 years who were covered by National Health Insurance in 2015. A self‐administered questionnaire consisting of questions focusing on demographic characteristics, happiness, and social capital was sent to the residents, and 1106 of them (40.5%) returned the questionnaires by the deadline. The analysis of responses indicated a positive relationship between social capital and happiness with regard to all three factors of social capital (trust, connections and interaction, and social participation). Evaluating the relationship between social capital and health in terms of happiness is important to creating a lively society in which citizens support one another, in addition to promoting physical and mental well‐being.
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Although the majority of research on adolescents’ online behavior has focused on antisocial behavior such as cyberbullying, adolescents more often behave prosocially than antisocially online. Research on offline prosocial behavior has shown that happiness and prosocial behavior are related. Furthermore, spillover-crossover research suggests that emotional states originating in one context can spill over to another context and can even cross over from one person to another. Therefore, this study examined whether happiness is also related to adolescents’ online prosocial behavior and whether others’ (in this case, parents’) happiness also indirectly, via transmission to adolescents’ own happiness, predicts adolescents’ online prosocial behavior. Via a daily diary method, the associations of adolescents’ own happiness and their parents’ happiness with adolescents’ online prosocial behavior were tested on a daily level. The findings suggest that, on a daily level, happiness creates a ripple effect whereby adolescents and parents take their positive emotional states from school and work home, and adolescents act on their happiness by behaving more prosocially online. The strongest spillover and crossover effects were found for girls and their mothers, evoking questions for future research to understand these gender differences.
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Pickleball, a paddle sport, is the fastest-growing sport in the US. As pickleball has been specifically popular among older adults, there is a growing interest in understanding its positive aspects. Therefore, this study explored the relation between financial status, loneliness, serious leisure, and subjective well-being (SWB) among older adults. In southern states in the US, a convenience sample of older adults who participated in pickleball competitions was recruited (n = 153). From hierarchical regression analyses, we found that (a) serious leisure significantly predicted SWB, (b) financial status was not related to SWB, and (c) loneliness was not related to SWB. We suggest that playing pickleball as a form of serious leisure may add significant value to older adults’ daily lives and contribute to successful aging.
Social support can obscure social gradients in health, but its role as a mediator between socioeconomic position (SEP) and quality of life (QoL) in older populations remains unknown. We aimed to examine to what extent social support mediates the association between SEP and overall QoL among older adults (aged 60–84 years). We studied a population-based cohort of 585 noninstitutionalized adults in Porto, Portugal, who were evaluated in 2009. Education, occupation, and perceived income adequacy were used as SEP indicators. The WHOQOL-OLD was used to determine overall QoL. Social support was assessed using the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support. Path analysis was conducted to quantify direct, indirect, and total effects of SEP on QoL. There was a positive total effect of education on QoL (β = 0.28; 95% CI: 0.05–0.48). In this model, we found an indirect effect through social support (β = 0.15; 95% CI: 0.05–0.26), explaining 54% of the pathway between education and QoL. A similar pattern was identified for the association between occupation and QoL. Perceived income adequacy had a total effect of 2.74 (95% CI: 1.68–3.93) on QoL. Although an indirect effect through social support was found (β = 0.98; 95% CI: 0.42–1.55), a direct effect from this variable remained (β = 1.76; 95% CI: 0.65–2.90). Social support can be a mechanism through which SEP impacts the QoL of older people. Strengthening social support ties may attenuate the impact of social inequalities and improve the QoL of this population.
Despite two decades of research on social capital and health, intervention studies remain scarce. We performed a systematic review on social capital interventions in public health and searched the Pubmed and PsychInfo databases. The majority of interventions we identified focused on individual level change (e.g. encouraging social participation), as opposed to community level change. We included 17 manuscripts in the systematic review. We categorized studies according to the role of social capital in the interventions (as the direct target of intervention, as a channel/mediator, or as a segmenting variable) as well as the levels of interventions (individual, community levels vs. multilevel ). We conclude that the majority of interventions sought to directly strengthen social capital to influence health outcomes. Our review reveals (i) a lack of studies that incorporate a multilevel perspective and (ii) an absence of consideration of specific groups that might selectively benefit from social capital interventions (segmentation). Future research is needed on both questions to provide a more nuanced picture of how social capital can be manipulated to affect health outcomes.
There is a growing literature demonstrating the health benefits of social capital (defined as the resources accessed through social connections). However, social capital is also acknowledged to be a “double-edged” phenomenon, whose effects on health are not always positive. We sought to systematically review studies that have found a negative (i.e. harmful) association between social capital and health outcomes. Our objective was to classify the different types of negative effects, following a framework originally proposed by Portes (1998). We conducted a literature search in Pubmed, Embase and PsychInfo. We identified 3530 manuscripts. After detailed review, we included 44 articles in our systematic review. There are at least two negative consequences of social capital besides the classification proposed by Portes: behavioral contagion and cross-level interactions between social cohesion and individual characteristics. When leveraging the concept of social capital for health promotion interventions, researchers need to take account of these potential “downsides” for health outcomes.