A working paper from the German Labour Institute by Philipp Doerrenberg and Sebastian Siegloch asks "Is Soccer Good for You?" They consider the motivational effect of big soccer events (major finals) on the unemployed. Using German social survey data they estimate the effect of a soccer tournament (FIFA World Cup finals or European Championship finals) on several motivational variables and measures of subjective well being. Survey respondents are interviewed throughout a given year and since there are no individual characteristics which determine at which point during the survey interviewing period a person is surveyed, they can use a tournament as a 'treatment' to test survey responses before and after tournaments within a given year.
They find that the intention to work, perceived difficulty in finding a job, reservation wages and the willingness to work full-time are all improved after a football tournament. Respondents also report an improvement in perceived health and perception of the general economic situation.
The paper is interesting and consistent with general studies on the effect of sport on well being - though these tend to look at individuals' participation in sport. There is evidence of positive effects on subjective well-being from hosting sports tournaments, though mixed evidence of an effect of sporting success on individual health and national well being. The Doerrenberg and Siegloch paper doesn't seem to control for how Germany performs at the various sports tournaments. Perhaps because (at least from an Irish perspective) they always do so well - "you can't ever write off the Germans". Of course this is where the applicability to an Irish situation may break down. We all got a bounce in our step from Euro 88 and Italia 90 - but going to a finals and getting a hiding like Euro 2012 is hardly likely to make anyone feel happier or more motivated.