A recent study exploring the antecedents of happiness suggests that Fantasy Football could be the answer.

In Turgut Turkdogan’s research article Exploring the Antecedents of Happiness: Reconceptualization of Human Needs with Glasser’s Choice Theory, he challenges choice theory with scientific evidence coupled with comparative theoretical frameworks.

In a study of 627 university students centered on subjective well being, Turkdogan found William Glasser’s Choice Theory to be highly representative of happiness in the human experience.

In Glasser’s theory, he describes five basic needs that must be equally satisfied for one to experience happiness:

1. Survival Need

2. Love and Belonging Need

3. Power Need

4. Freedom Need

5. Fun Need

In this article I will use Glasser’s five basic needs and Turkdogan’s happiness research to argue that Fantasy Football is scientifically proven to bring you greater subjective well being.

Survival Need

For the survival need, I am going to assume that anyone playing Fantasy Football has his or her survival needs met. I will assume that if someone doesn’t have the needs of food, water, shelter, sex, health and safety satisfied, that they aren’t reading this manuscript or creating fantasy leagues. While it is unfortunate that we still live in a world in which many peoples’ survival needs aren’t met, I will use this as the control.

Fortunately, Turkdogan uses the same control, “although Glasser emphasized the equality of the importance on five basic needs theoretically and also accepted the physiological and psychological needs as the basic needs as a whole, satisfaction of the survival need can be considered as a control variable for investigating the role of psychological needs in prediction of happiness.

Love and Belonging Need

It is no secret that a sense of belonging and social connectedness is a huge predictor of happiness levels.

Turkdogan states, “The relation of satisfaction with friends and family members exhibits a significant relationship with subjective well-being. Similarly, perceived social support or social connectedness is a significant predictor of subjective well-being. Also, the research results indicate a significant relationship between satisfaction of relatedness need and subjective well-being.”

Turkdogan further explains, “The research results show that the sociocultural sources of the love and belonging need such as social relations, connectedness and common good orientation in a society are also significant predictors of happiness beyond the individual sources.

The process of creating and sustaining a Fantasy Football league satisfies this need entirely. 

In order to create a league, we join together family, friends and friends of friends in an interpersonal league community. 

Each player belongs to the league for the entire season and is constantly in contact with the other players. Players connect through “smack talk,” trade offers, lineup strategy and general football and league discussion.

Further, each team is valued equally and holds the same chance of winning. Thus, each individual’s sense of belonging is identical and intact for the entire season.

In my experience as a Fantasy Footballer, I have connected with people far outside my social circle. I have grown closer to colleagues, teachers and bosses. I have built better relationships with my immediate and distant family and connected with people from other states and countries.

Fantasy Football has sparked and maintained countless relationships across multiple countries. The bond that forms over 17+ weeks of consistent [generally] positive contact undoubtedly increases players’ feelings of belonging and social connectedness; both key indicators of happiness.

The bottom line:

Fantasy Football’s format is built around increasing social engagement and connection, both of which increase our subjective well-being. 

Power Need

Turkdogan proposes, “As a matter of fact, humans as social beings are in an effort to gain a respectful position in their social environment. For instance, we hate to be underestimated by other people, and we try to stay away from social circles that may harm our self-respect. Also, we are quite competitive for attaining prestigious jobs, titles, and positions. Thus, power need defines the desire for personal growth and success identity which aims to improve our competencies to gain a respectful position in life.”

Throughout the season players are constantly changing lineups, frantically checking the waiver wire and reading up on the latest fantasy updates. Fantasy Football inspires us to read everyday, keep up with trends and compete with our friends.

We do this because we desire personal growth and success in our league. We want to gain a more respectful position, which satisfies a natural human need. Fantasy Football gives us the desire to gain respect among our peers and inspires us to improve as we strive to create the best and most successful team in comparison to our friends.

Turkdogan follows with, “similar results show that the variables such as assertiveness need, learned resourcefulness, respect need, and competence need are significant predictors of happiness. Furthermore, findings show that having a purposeful and meaningful life, or having a successful goal pursuit in life are also significant predictors of happiness.”

Throughout the season we are constantly adjusting our rosters to find the best combination that will make our team victorious. We attempt to satisfy our self-worth through competence in predicting players and how they will perform.

 It is our pursuit of respect, power, competence and resourcefulness that we find purpose in our efforts.

The bottom line:

Research proves that the need for learned resourcefulness, respect, competence and competition are key predictors of subjective well-being. Fantasy Football inspires us to fulfill all of these needs through natural league competition.

Freedom Need

Turkdogan states, “The freedom need is defined as the desire to have a personal space for acting freely in life, to maintain life, stay away from pressures, and to move with free will when making decisions about the course of life. There are also many research findings indicating that satisfaction of autonomy need is a significant predictor of happiness.

Freedom to pick the team that you want without anyone else’s advice? Freedom to pick the name of your team all by yourself? Freedom to change your lineups as you please? Fantasy Football does it all.

In a Fantasy league we have full autonomy over our team and our stake in the game. We have the freedom to not only enter the league but to make all of our decisions in it as well. 

The bottom line:

Research proves that personal autonomy and the ability to act freely both strongly indicate levels of subjective well-being. With the ability to draft and change one’s team on a daily basis, Fantasy Football fulfills the freedom need sufficiently.

Fun Need

Turkdogan states, “Fun need defines the pleasant occasions in life, such as playing games, following a sense of humor, having hobbies concerning art, literature, or sport, and also discovering new experiences about life.”

He continues, “Leisure engagement has a significant relationship with subjective well-being. Besides, leisure satisfaction exhibits significant predictive roles on subjective well-being after personality traits like extraversion or neuroticism are controlled.

Fantasy Football is a fun leisure activity centered on sport. Each game and each week is an entirely new and exciting entertainment experience.

The research proclaims, “The results of a meta-analysis provide strong evidences for positive relationship between leisure engagement and subjective well-being, and leisure engagement which includes games, sports, or cultural experiences appears to be at least as strongly related to subjective well-being as much as the variables like occupational status or income. Thus, it can be said that the conceptualization of the fun need as a specific and important human need for attaining happiness can be accepted as a correct assumption of the choice theory.”

In case you didn’t read all of that, let me repeat it in bigger and bolder letters:

Science proves that leisure engagement appears to be at least as strongly related to subjective well-being as variables like occupational status or income.

In other words, having fun contributes to our happiness levels just as much as our money in the bank.

The bottom line:

Having fun in leisure is a strong indicator of subjective well-being, perhaps as important as our occupational status. Fantasy football clearly provides both fun and leisure for millions of people every year.


Turkdogan writes, “In a study which can be accepted as the first attempt to explore the validity of this major assumption, the researchers investigated the role of basic needs satisfaction in predicting subjective well being in university life context. The findings of the study showed that five basic needs explained the variance in subjective well being in a large effect, with all of five basic needs significantly contributing to the prediction. Moreover, the findings also support the major assumption of choice theory about the role of five basic needs for attaining happiness. Consequently, the researchers concluded that the students who have the ability to make choices and to express themselves freely, who have an attempt to have fun, who feel themselves worthy and successful, who have enough safety and shelter conditions, and who have good relationships with significant people to themselves in their lives, are more close to happiness than others.”

While Glasser’s Choice theory is scientifically supported and effectively defended by Turkdogan, there is still more research to be done.

As of now, all research indicates that a human satisfying Glasser’s five needs is much closer to subjective well being than one who does not.

Furthermore, subjective well-being is of course, subjective. So playing Fantasy Football is not going to make everyone happy. But if you are someone who enjoys playing Fantasy Football, science is encouraging you to continue

So play on fellow Fantasy Footballers. Enjoy yourselves. Happiness might only come once a year.


Turgut Turkdogan (2017). Exploring the Antecedents of Happiness: Reconceptualization of Human Needs with Glasser’s Choice Theory, Quality of Life and Quality of Working Life, Ph.D. Ana Alice Vilas Boas (Ed.), InTech, DOI: 10.5772/68022. Available from: https://www.intechopen.com/books/quality-of-life-and-quality-of-working-life/exploring-the-antecedents-of-happiness-reconceptualization-of-human-needs-with-glasser-s-choice-theo