Social impact and the economic importance of sport

After the first national lockdown of 2020, Sport England commissioned the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University to assess the social impact and the economic importance of sport and physical activity in England. The closures due to COVID-19 have proven just how much we as a society rely on sport and fitness to help our physical and mental health.

There are two fascinating parts to the research – part one measures the social impact (including physical and mental health) of sport and physical activity and part two measures the economic importance.

The results of this report show that for “every £1 spent on community sport and physical activity in England, an economic and social return on investment of £3.91 is generated” in 2017/18. The report states that a huge £9.5 billion was generated through the following physical and mental wellbeing impacts:

  • 150,000 cases of heart disease and stroke prevented
  • 900,000 cases of diabetes prevented
  • 8,500 cases of cancer prevented
  • 93,000 cases of dementia prevented
  • 375,000 cases of depression prevented
  • 30,000,000 fewer GP visits
  • 33,000,000 reduced use of psychotherapy services
  • 21,000 hip fractures prevented
  • 1,500,000 back pain cases prevented

Being active also improves the mental wellbeing of millions. The report shows that across 2017/18, 24 million people noted an improvement on life satisfaction through participation and 3.9 million people through volunteering. The report states an improvement on education attainment and increased earnings, as well as 10,000 fewer crimes.

In the second half the report focusing on the economic importance, the research shows that community sport and physical activity supports 285,000 jobs in England (139,000 in the commercial sector, 102,000 in the public sector and 45,000 in volunteering/third sector). The value of this employment is a huge £13.8 billion.

To conclude, sport and physical activity has a significant social and economic value to England. Taking all of the above into account, including physical health benefits, mental wellbeing uplifts and economic development, sport and physical activity was found to add £85.5 billion to the English economy and society.

To read the full report, please visit