One of the first images that might come to mind when you think of a pop music fan is probably the screaming at a concert. Among these are fans who are increasingly obsessed about their favourite celebrities that their behaviour borders on criminal. And then you’ve got sports fans who start violent riots at tension-filled matches. Even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of anything, you might personally know at least one other person who is. Chances are, you might even have first-hand experience of the ugly side of fan culture. There are indeed legitimate reasons why cynicism towards fan culture comes all too easily. It does beg the question that has often been the subject of debate: is being a fan healthy? Or are every single one of these fans inadvertently harming themselves? Is the thrill worth the risk?


A Sense Of Belonging

One of the biggest draws of fan culture is discovering others who share their interests, allowing fans to enjoy a vast improvement in their mental health. Who doesn’t enjoy being able to discuss comfortably with others about the things that they love? Doing so gives people an ineffable sense of belonging, that perhaps we’re not exactly alone in this big world. It’s an instinct that comes to most of us readily in spite of our differences.

For fans, being part of fan culture gives them this opportunity by being part of a tight-knit community. This is especially evident in young music fans. Studies noted how powerful music can be when it comes to bringing like-minded souls together. It doesn’t matter if they never meet these people face-to-face. Fans identify with their ‘imagined collective’ much more than any impassive face on the streets of their neighbourhood.


Fans & Physical Fitness

But what about the health risks that might come with being a fan? Everything does come with its own dark side, and apparently, in fan culture, it’s poor physical health. Fans are more likely to suffer from poor physical health, particularly as a result of obesity. A recent survey discovered that sports fans are more prone to obesity. This might come as no surprise to anyone who knows a hardcore sports fan personally. Eating junk or fatty food, drinking beer, and general inactivity appear to be the order of the day whenever a match is on. There is a strange sort of irony in the fact that their interest involves watching some of the fittest people in the world.

But even then, it would be remiss to ignore those who enjoy regular exercise by playing the sport that they love watching. Team sports offer physical health benefits by the dozens and can create that sense of belonging that these fans crave. More of the former should emulate the latter; perhaps, then, they would learn to adopt a much healthier mindset, too. Clearly, all of this is mostly down to the choices that anyone makes as a person, more so than their identity as a fan. Matches aren’t played every single day of the week — what’s stopping them from making better choices then?


Stress Relief & Happiness

In terms of mental health, however, being a fan appears to have its merits. Fans are more likely to be happier and better able to recover from stress. With detrimental effects ranging from persistent acne to high blood pressure, prolonged stress is certainly no minor concern. In fact, numerous studies indicate that supporting a sports team can even prevent severe mental health conditions such as depression. Sports fans are also more likely to develop a higher sense of self-esteem, happiness, and overall well-being. It’s all down to their interest helping them to feel good about themselves. The same can be said about fans of anything else, really. Music, especially, has been found to induce an increase in the release of dopamine, a hormone that gives us a surge of happiness. And if it makes them happy, it can’t be that bad, right?


Engaging In Critical Thinking

Being a fan also allows them greater opportunity to engage in critical thinking by responding to their chosen interests analytically. This is true for almost every single fan. For instance, sports fans are encouraged to think more strategically by analysing tactics that have been adopted by their favourite teams. Meanwhile, hardcore fans of television shows, books, and films write detailed essays that analyse their favourite character’s growth or narrative techniques used by writers and directors. Now, even academia accepts and even rewards this aspect of fan culture. More classes that are centered on these very subjects are now being offered in universities, offering students a legitimate career path based on their chosen interests.


The Bottomline

For every fan, it is their choices that determine how their own brush with fan culture affects them. Pinning down a broad spectrum of possible experiences using statistics lifted from a survey isn’t exactly a fair indicator. The chosen interest itself appears to have little negative influence. Nerds, feel free to do your thing.