Author: Dr Tracy Latham-Green, University of Northampton

Executive Summary of a PhD thesis, 8th September 2020

An estimated 1.5 million people take part in driven game shooting in the UK. The findings of this PhD thesis show that participation offers significant benefits for participants in terms of physical health, mental health, social cohesion, inter-generational mixing, combating loneliness in rural areas and offering a sense of purpose.

NB – The project was funded solely from the departmental budget surplus of the University of Northampton’s Directorate for Research, Impact and Enterprise. No external funding was received from any organisation. The researcher had never been involved in game shooting or rural field sports of any kind prior to the PhD study.

Note – the photo was taken in 2019, before social distancing measures were introduced.

Key findings from this research project:

  • Participation in driven game shooting in any form has a moderate to large positive effect on participants’ mental health and well-being (measured using the short Warwick-Edinburgh mental well-being scale (SWEMWBS)).
  • Sense of purpose was particularly important for beaters and pickers-up with 98% of regular beaters and pickers up agreeing or strongly agreeing that is was important that they ‘do a good job to contribute to the success of the shoot day’. Having a sense of purpose, particularly as we get older, has been shown to positively affect health and well-being (Alimujiang et al., 2019; McKnight and Kashdan, 2009).
  • Driven game shooting can be of benefit in encouraging physical exercise all year round. The median distance walked by participants was 8.0 km, rising to a median of 9.0 km for beaters and pickers-up. Throughout the season, 66.2% of beaters and pickers-up take part in driven game shooting once a week or more, with 39.2% taking part twice a week or more which indicates a large amount of exercise is facilitated via participation throughout the winter months, in all weathers.
  • The study confirms that the financial value of these social impacts is potentially significant, as savings to the taxpayer in avoiding poor mental health and maintaining physical health can be very high. It is estimated that poor mental health costs the UK £105 billion per annum when the various social and economic factors are taken into account (Department of Health Independent Mental Health Taskforce, 2016) and the overall costs of loneliness for each individual person can be £6,000 over ten years (Mcdaid, Bauer and Park, 2017). Physical inactivity and obesity can lead to long-term conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Leong and Wilding, 1999), which are costly to manage in the NHS. A 2014 study indicated that obesity had a burden of around £47 billion a year on society (circa 3% of GDP).
  • Based upon the WHO HEAT tool, a value of around £547 million per year can be suggested as the health-related financial impact of participation in DGS by beaters and pickers-up, due to the increased walking that this group participates in.
  • Strong social capital networks, one of the wider determinants of health as defined by Dahlgren and Whitehead (1991), exist within all forms of driven game shooting, in particular within not-for-profit syndicate shoots, and this study found examples of those support networks being activated in times of need, such as following a close bereavement. A very strong and clear ‘rural identity’ amongst almost all participants further strengthened the social networks – 91% of survey participants indicated a rural identity, a connection to the countryside and rural life influenced participation. Strong social support networks have a number of positive benefits to both mental and physical health and well-being and can help enhance and maintain social cohesion in rural communities
  • Newcomers to rural areas were shown to be welcomed to the driven game shooting community if they showed an interest in taking part, allowing them to make friends and build social capital networks in the area they have now moved to. Inter-generational mixing opportunities, evidenced by the age range of shoot participants, was also found to be a factor in enhancing social cohesion.

Download the full executive summary here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344191124_Executive_Summary_of_a_PhD_Thesis_’Understanding_the_social_impact_of_participation_in_Driven_Game_Shooting_in_the_UK

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