5 September 2018

Does the 'Coping Through Football' programme deliver benefits to the physical and mental health of people living with mental health difficulties?

This report is the culmination of two years of research led by Dr Oliver Mason of UCL on the Coping Through Football project. Centre for Mental Health provided the economic analysis of the programme's costs and benefits.

Coping Through Football was founded by London Playing Fields Foundation, who started the initiative in 2005 in collaboration with North East London Foundation Trust and Leyton Orient Trust. It was conceived in response to the fact that the biggest cause of death of 20-49 year old men was suicide and that given that community mental health services were stretched to the limit, there was an over reliance on medication as a treatment.

The report finds that for two out of three participants (39% of whom have schizophrenia) there was a positive change in lifestyle choices around healthy eating and smoking. 54% of participants went on to volunteering, education and training or employment. The report also records that there was a 12% reduction in the number of overnight hospital stays for those who were involved in the project. 

Centre for Mental Health's researchers highlighted that the Coping Through Football programme is a low-cost intervention in the mental health sector. The cost of one person attending the programme every week for a year was £1,700, which is equivalent to four days in a mental health inpatient bed, or five A&E attendances. Our analysis also highlighted that "the annual cost of Coping Through Football for one year is the equivalent of the costs of schizophrenia to society for just over one person (1.32 people)." 

Deputy Chief Executive Andy Bell commented:

We are delighted to have worked with UCL to evaluate the economic impact of Coping Through Football. It is clear that the project has had a marked positive impact for those who participated, and this is likely to bring about significant benefits for the NHS as well as the people themselves and their families. We hope that more initiatives like this will come about and that we can build a clear evidence base about the benefits of sport and physical activity for people living with mental health conditions.

Photo by Paul Codling on Unsplash
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