Psychological Well-Being and Interpersonal Relationships


Sports, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other. Sports’ has a lot of health benefits, both physical and mental. Sports’ participation is the active and direct involvement in sports and its related activities. Since sports involve physical activity, we can attribute the health benefits of physical activity to be similar to that of sports. Sports participation helps in building an environment that helps in inculcating values like competitiveness, fair play, achievement, perseverance and a sense of sportsmanship.

By playing sports, one may feel tired and may have body aches, but at the end of the day it would give the person a sense of happiness and make the person feel alive which no other cyber sport or videogames could give. Increasing of sports participation is important to the individual and the nation as a whole. The government can also take steps in implementing this by providing sports hour in schools and colleges and also by providing newer facilities for the same.

According to Bailey (2006), participants in physical education and sports experience several benefits. For instance, Talbot (2001) asserted that involvement in sports can help children develop respect for their body as well as respect for others. He also stated that sport participation contributes to positive development of mind and body leading to higher self-confidence, and self-esteem.

Regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control body weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem, and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels (U.

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S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008)

There are different types of sports. According to the World Sports Encyclopedia (2003), there are 8000 indigenous sports and sporting games ranging from the outdoor field sports like football, basketball, cricket, tennis, badminton to other indigenous sports like wrestling, rock climbing, archery etc. The type of sports focused in the present study is outdoor sports. The present study focuses on the effect of sports’ participation on self-esteem, psychological well-being and interpersonal relationship. It is hypothesized that sports’ participation will have a positive correlation on self-esteem, psychological well-being and interpersonal relationship. Based on the number of people in a team, sports has again been classified into team sports and individual sports. Sports like badminton, tennis and table tennis can be played in singles or doubles. They come under the category of individual sport. Individual sports require the person to compete against another person, where he/she can take decisions all by him/ her. He/she need not consult anyone of what is going to be the next move.

Whereas team sport requires players to communicate and cooperate. There is no ‘I’ in a team. All the players develop a ‘team mindset’ where they have one common goal and all of them must strive together to achieve the same. In a team sport, no matter how talented one is, one must rely on his teammates. The success of the team depends on the cooperation of the teammates. The responsibility for the outcome of the game is shared in teams. No one person is responsible. It is important that players have good interpersonal relationships that are important at the point of time of losing a game or the team is going through a tough time so that there won’t be any blame game against each other. Examples of team sport include basketball, cricket, football, volleyball etc.

Both sports (individual and group) have its own pros and cons. It all depends on the interests of the person playing it. Some would be interested in playing alone and some would be interested in playing in a team and some would be interested in playing both.

Team sports promote the virtue of working together. Here players get an opportunity to socialize and interact with their team members and can complement each other in order to achieve their common goal. Here decisions cannot be taken alone. The teammates must have proper communication. Whereas in an individual sport, the individual is free to take his own decisions and can play the way he wants. One need not rely on anyone. It is solely on the individual’s efficiency and skills. Be it success or failure, the individual alone has to bear, unlike in team sport where it is a collective effort. While individual sports promote a higher amount of discipline,  research has indicated that people find team sports more enjoyable. (Tauer, J.M. & Harackiewicz, J.M., 2004).

These findings suggest that athletes in individual sports are more likely to struggle through low times in training where they don’t feel like pushing themselves to achieve just a little more. Success in individual sports requires a high level of discipline to keep oneself accountable and to push through the less exciting times in one’s sport. The study also suggests that team competition increases performance level. One study found that athletes involved in individual sports experienced greater feelings of autonomy than their team-based counterparts, possibly due to greater freedom to make decisions (Gillet and Rosner 2008). They also get to experience flexibility with their training times; they do not have to wait for others to come over to start. This is another advantage of individual sport.

Since team sports require team members to communicate with each other, there are chances that it could develop one’s interpersonal relationship. An interpersonal relationship is a deep bond that exists between two or more people that may be brief or enduring. Kelley and colleagues (1983) define a close relationship as one that is strong, frequent, and with diverse interdependence that lasts over a considerable period of time.  Individuals form many different kinds of relationships with other people, some of which are intimate and close (e.g., parent–child, spouse–spouse, friendships) and others which are not intimate and close (e.g., neighbor, teacher–student). Most of the research on interpersonal relationships has focused on those relationships that are close, intimate, and have high interdependence. By communication, each other’s views are better understood and this helps in strengthening the bond between them.

During the interaction and communication processing with others, we use some skills, both verbally and nonverbally, to help us to understand them, meet potential target, and consequently develop many relative interpersonal behaviors. (Lz, L & Takami, K 2005). Research (Tauer, J. M., & Harackiewicz, J. M., 2004) shows that athletes have an improvement in their performance when they are in groups and they can give their best when they are supported by others. In team sports, there is always someone else to train with and one can measure up to what level one needs to improve and where one’s shortcomings are and how it can be changed. Team members facilitate this and try to help each team member reach their absolute best. They can improve when they play alongside more talented players.

One of the theories of interpersonal relationship is that of Fundamental Interpersonal Relationship Orientation. This theory presented 3 dimensions of interpersonal needs that most people share: the needs for inclusion, for control and for affection. Inclusion refers to people’s need to be recognized as participants in human interaction. Schutz maintains that people begin relationships in order to satisfy one or more of these needs. The use of the term control as it applies to this theory refers to people’s desires to make a difference in their social environments and to have some say over what happens. Finally, people seek a sense of interpersonal warmth or of being liked or loved. This is a humanistic theory because it has intuitive credibility; it makes sense and is relative to actual communication practice. (Schutz, 1958).

American Sociologist George Caspar Homans in 1958 proposed the Social Exchange Theory which explains social behaviour as a result of an exchange process. This exchange process builds relationships in such a way that helps in maximising benefits for the individual and minimising the risks or bad outcomes. The relationships flourishes when the rewards outweigh the risks and the relationship is terminated when the individual feels that the potential risks has a chance of causing disturbances to the individual. All relationships here have a give and take policy, although the balance of this exchange may not always be equal.

It has been shown that a healthy and harmonious interpersonal relationship produced a great effect on subjective well-being for college students (Zhang et al., 2009). This study will be focusing on psychological well being. Psychological well-being refers to how people evaluate their lives. It doesn’t mean that a person must be always happy. Negative situations would also occur. It depends on the person’s positive coping resources that would help in overcoming the negative situations and leading a balanced life. Research has demonstrated that psychological well-being is promoted through regular exercise and sport, which occurs for at least twenty minutes a day, three or more times a week (Scully et al., 1998). Psychological well-being is heavily grounded on Carrol Ryff’s theory. She ended up creating one of the first systematic models of Psychological Well-Being and her model remain one of the most scientifically verified and empirically rigorous today. This model differs from past models in one important way: well-being is multidimensional, and not merely about happiness, or positive emotions. According to the model, there are six categories of well-being. They are:

  • Autonomy is the regulation of one’s own behaviour through an internal locus of control (Ryff, 1989b; Ryff & Keyes, 1995). Autonomy is also linked to self-determined motivation in sport participation (Huang & Jeng, 2005).
  • Personal growth is the ability to develop and expand the self, to become a fully functioning person, to self-actualize and accomplish goals (Ryff, 1989b; Ryff & Keyes, 1995). To achieve peak psychological functioning one must continue to develop the self through growth in various facets of life (Ryff, 1989b) Athletes, who are humble but confident, are constantly striving for personal growth and holistic development (Weinberg & Gould, 2007)
  • Environmental mastery refers to choosing and controlling the surrounding and imagined environment through physical and/or mental actions (Ryff, 1989b; Ryff & Keyes, 1995).
  • Purpose in life refers to the perceived significance of one’s existence and involves the setting and reaching of goals, which contribute to the appreciation of life (Ryff, 1989b; Ryff & Keyes, 1995)
  • Having positive relations with others is an essential component in the development of trusting and lasting relationships as well as belonging to a network of communication and support (Ryff, 1989b; Ryff & Keyes, 1995) Communication is an important part of team interactions (Miller, 1997; Potgieter, 1997). In group/team settings, positive relations with others often results in increased knowledge, empowerment and improved sporting performance.
  • Self-acceptance is a fundamental feature of mental health and an element of optimal functioning (Ryff, 1989b; Ryff & Keyes, 1995).

The study also focuses on the effects of sports participation on self-esteem. Self-esteem can be described as one’s overall sense of self-worth or the degree to which an individual feels positively about him or herself. Patrick Cohn (2016) clearly distinguishes between self-confidence and self-esteem. The former is an individual’s belief in one’s own ability in how much one can execute a task efficiently. Whereas self-esteem is more about the whole person; how an individual see himself and relates to others. It generally arises when an individual succeeds, is praised, or experiences love from another, and is lowered by failure, harsh criticism and rejection.

With active involvement in sports, we develop positive images of our physical bodies and our own skills and abilities. As a result that could help in boosting one’s self esteem. We may also feel positive about our strengths and when our strengths are recognized and appreciated by others, we may feel a boost in our self-esteem. Yet, we may be vulnerable to low self-esteem in sport and physical activity if we perceive our body to be inadequate, unfit or inappropriate for our selected activity. According to Cohn (2016), athletes must develop self-esteem based on their self-concept and a positive appraisal of the same. Researchers have found that physical activities play a particularly powerful role in strengthening physical self-worth. (Biddleetal. 2000) Canadian scientists found that sixth grade boys and girls who were more physically active had considerably higher levels of self-esteem.

A study in Switzerland found those adolescents who participated in sports clubs had greater well-being, including being better socially adjusted, feeling less anxious, and generally being happier about their lives (C. Ferron et al., 1999). Similar findings were reported in a study of Latino students, where participation in school sport was found to be significantly associated with self-esteem (Erkut & Tracy, 2002).

A positive self-esteem is key to psychological well-being. Sports have the ability to strengthen youth’s confidence through positive support, social interaction, team contribution, and skill development. An article in the Journal of Human Sport & Exercise reinforces the fact that girls and boys who participate in individual or team sports competitively have greater self-esteem. Having this greater level of self-esteem facilitates the success of youth in high-end sports and the competitive nature of these sports in turn, enhances self-esteem (D’Anna, Rio, & Paloma, 2015). Sports provide youth with a sense of purpose and allow youth to feel like an asset, which contributes to positive self-confidence. Sports also keep youth active and healthy; this supports a positive body image, which in turn supports their level of self-confidence. (Mackenzie, 2017)

Improving self-esteem through sports may also result in improvement of socialization skills. An article published in the Sport Psychologist Journal, reiterates that a connection is present between youth self-esteem, social acceptance, and social skills (Cronin & Allen, 2015)

Self-esteem can be classified into a variety of categories:

  1. Global self-esteem: refers to the overall aggregated opinion of oneself at any one time, on a scale between negative and positive (Harter, 1993, p.88 as cited in Kling et al., 1999).
  2. Domain specific : relates to one’s self-esteem in regard of a particular area, such as sport.
  3. Trait self-esteem: described as an individual’s accumulated lifelong perception of social inclusion and exclusion (Leary, Tambor, Terdal & Downs, 1995).
  4. State self-esteem: a perception of changes in one’s level of social inclusion, given a particular setting.
  5. Stable : as compared to unstable and narcissistic self-esteem, with the latter two eliciting stronger emotional reactions to ego threats
  6. True or authentic: high self-esteem that is stable

A number of theories have been proposed by various theorists. William James has been referred as the creator of the self-esteem movement (Hewitt, 2005; Kling et al., 1999; Leary et al., 1995; Seligman, 1996) because of his works on it and his theory James’s (1890 as cited in Seligman, 1996, p.30) original formula of self-esteem appears to be well respected:. Self-esteem =success / pretentions. Pretensions, in this case, refer to our goals, values, and what we believe about our potential. So, if our actual achievements are low and our believed potential and goals are high, we see ourselves as failures. Conversely, if your success exceeds your expectations, you feel great about yourself and your self-esteem rises.

Stanley Coopersmith proposed that self-esteem is deeply rooted in one’s life and it begins very early in life. Self-esteem builds positively from early childhood if the individual is raised with love and security. Throughout childhood and into adult lives, one’s self-esteem builds or falls from that early-childhood baseline through positive and negative experiences.

Moris Rosenberg is another contemporary of Coopersmith who studied on the development of self-esteem. He focused on adolescents rather than children. He said that self-esteem develops at the stages of uncertainty when one compares himself with others.

Another theory that focuses on the function of self esteem is that of Self Determination Theory (SDT). It states that man is born with an intrinsic motivation to explore, absorb and master his surroundings and that true high self-esteem (Deci & Ryan, 1995 as cited in Ryan & Deci, 2004) is reported when the basic psychological nutrients, or needs, of life (relatedness, competency and autonomy) are in balance (Ryan & Deci, 2004; Reis, Sheldon, Gable, Roscoe, & Ryan, 2000 as cited in Ryan & Deci, 2004).

When social conditions provide support and opportunity to fulfil these basic needs, personal growth, vitality and well-being are enhanced (Chirkou, Ryan, Kim, & Kaplan, 2003; La Guardia, Ryan, Couchman, & Deci, 2000 as cited in Ryan & Deci, 2004).

The objective of the present study is to achieve a more detailed understanding on the differences in self-esteem, psychological well-being and interpersonal relationship of sports and non-sports people.

Need for the Study

  1. Over the past 3 decades, there has been an alarming increase in the number of youths and adults being obese and overweight. This can be attributed to the fact that people are not giving enough time for physical activity and sports. Remaining active throughout one’s life, particularly in sports, will not only improve health, but help offset declining self-esteem and increasing depression that often accompanies aging. Many sport opportunities for students rely on adequate funding, and often get reduced due to lack of program funds. The information from this study becomes important for schools and sport programs to allocate more funding for sports and to create more sport opportunities for students.
  2. With the advent of Internet and smartphones, the time for face-face interactions have reduced significantly, to a large extent. People are engrossed with their phones in their private rooms that they don’t have time to go out and play. They prefer mobile and video games to outdoor games, which is a healthy way of spending time. As a result, the physical and mental health benefits of sports are wasted. Due to lack of face-face interactions, people are unable to maintain social relationships. This could result in a reduction in self-esteem, psychological well-being and interpersonal relationship.
  3. The study may also help in creating awareness on the positive effects of sports.
  4. There hasn’t been a study that has taken all the 3 variables; self-esteem, psychological well-being and interpersonal relationship together in an Indian setting.

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Psychological Well-Being and Interpersonal Relationships. (2022, Apr 28). Retrieved from

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