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Results of Survey on Wellbeing and Bridge

Projects funded by English Bridge Education and Development (EBED) in partnership with the University of Stirling in Scotland have published two online papers in relation to ‘brain health’ and ‘healthy ageing’ which are connected to playing bridge.

The first report discusses the link between playing bridge and subjective measures of quality of life and considers two research questions:

1) What are the characteristics of bridge players and their playing habits?

2) Is there an association between playing bridge and measures of individual wellbeing?

An online questionnaire was developed to capture demographic, social, subjective wellbeing, and bridge playing characteristics of individuals. Over 7000 individuals from the UK and internationally responded to the survey. Many thanks to those from BridgeWinners who participated in this research. Questions relating to demographic, social and wellbeing were used from a subset of the questions contained in Wave 6 of the English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) to enable a comparison between bridge players and non-bridge players.

The key finding was that those who play bridge have higher levels of wellbeing than those who do not play. Bridge players report high levels of subjective wellbeing, revealing they tend to be optimistic about their future and the opportunities available to them, satisfied with the way their lives have turned out, sociable, and in control of their own lives. However, the results of our study are not conclusive and the question remains: does bridge have a positive effect or are healthier, happier individuals more likely to play bridge?

A summary follows below and for further information, including the full report from the survey as well as a literature review of Possible Interventions into Healthy Ageing and Cognitive Stimulation: Exploring the Links between Bridge and Dementia, see EBED’s website:

http://www.ebedcio.org.uk/health-wellbeing-research

1) Bridge: Characteristics of Players and Playing Habits

The survey found that 94 percent of individuals that play bridge have regular playing partners, with the mean and median number of partners being 3 and 2 respectively; quite a number of people (16%) have had the same partner for over 30 years. On average, individuals play bridge 10 times in a typical month; however this excludes sessions played online (via Bridge Base Online for example) and so the actual number of sessions is likely higher. Bridge also appears to be a persistent feature of people’s lives, with many respondents indicating they have been playing for decades; even those that take a break for a number of years find their way back to the game. Family members and face-to-face lessons play a crucial role in individual’s learning of the game, with books and online resources playing a minor role. Finally, a majority of respondents indicated that playing bridge brought benefits to them personally in the form of the game having a competitive element, facilitating socialising with friends, and – most commonly – being mentally stimulating and deriving enjoyment from the activity; this is the case for all ages in our sample.

2) Playing Bridge and Individual Wellbeing

Using our quality of life measures, it appears that individuals in the sample are optimistic about their future and the opportunities available to them, satisfied with the way their lives have turned out, sociable, unencumbered by money concerns and feel they are in control of their own lives. On the other hand, a large minority of respondents reported they at least sometimes feel that their age and health prevents them from pursuing activities. Using a linear regression model to predict an individual’s wellbeing, we discovered that playing bridge has a positive effect, though the effect is not as strong when we only include respondents aged 50 and older. For those that play bridge, the specifics of their playing habits – such as the number of regular partners or years spent playing the game – are not associated with higher levels of wellbeing.

What is clear is the need for unambiguous research designs to test the effect of playing bridge on a chosen measure of wellbeing. Experimental or quasi-experimental approaches could isolate the specific effect of playing bridge, eliminating confounding factors that are almost certainly a feature of our study.

Further bridge research is being coordinated by one of EDEB’s Trustees, Dr Caroline Small, an Honorary Senior Lecturer at Imperial College, London, working alongside Prof. Samantha Punch and colleagues from the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Stirling.

The full report is available at the following link:

www.ebedcio.org.uk/files/docs/research/individual-wellbeing-and-bridge-an-empirical-analysis.pdf

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