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Psychology of Sporting Behaviour and Physical

Education in Neo-liberal Globalized Society

Prof. Samirranjan Adhikari
Professor in the Department of Education,
Sidho-Kanho-Birsha University, Purulia, West Bengal, India.

Premise I: Society produces mental illness.


Sociology of Mental Health

The sociology of mental health is the study of the social arrangements that

involve in mental illness and its consequences. Psychologists typically put emphasis
on internal mental processes; while, biologists centre on the function of physiological
aspects of mental illness. But though sociologists do not markdown biology and
psychology in studying mental illness, yet they believe that a critical social lens is
necessary to gaining the whole picture of mental illness.
Some sociologists focus on the socially constructed nature of the so called
mental illness. They call attention to historical changes that have led to a
redefinition of mental illness. Michel Foucault (1986), a French social philosopher,
studied the meaning of mental illness through history. The year 1656 was an
important date in the history of madness because in this year Hospital General * in
Paris was opened. In the age of reason, people who thought or acted unreasonable
needed to be separated from the masses.
1.1 Theoretical Perspectives of Mental Illness within Sociology
In this context four major sociological perspectives may be outlined (a) social
causation, (b) critical theory and (c) social constructivism.
1.1.1 Social Causation
The emphasis within a social causation approach is upon tracing the relationship
between social disadvantage and mental illness. Many sociologists have considered
the main indicator of disadvantage to be low social class and/or poverty. Social class

In 1656, when L' Hospital General was founded in Paris, it was in fact primarily a place of
confinement of the unproductive poor. The insane were confined, not because they were mad, but
because they were useless.

has not been the only variable investigated within this social causation perspective.
Disadvantages of other sorts, such as, those related to gender, community, age etc.
have also been of interest.
1.1.2 Critical Theory
During the twentieth century, a number of writers attempted to account for the
relationship between socio-economic structures and the inner lives of individuals. One
example is the work of Sartre (1963). This great philosopher has developed his
progressive-regressive method, which is an attempt to understand biography in
relation to its social context and to understand social context via the accounts of
peoples lives. Humanistic Marxism has been developed from this existential
philosophy. Marxism also has to compete with another and more involved set of
discussions about the relationship between unconscious mental life (Freud) and
societal determinants and constraints.

Social Constructivism
A central assumption within this broad approach is that reality is not self-

evident, stable and waiting to be discovered, but instead it is a product of human

activity. Researchers with a constructionist perspective focus on the medicalization of
deviance. These are the ways in which mental health problems have come under the
boundaries of medicine.

Sociological Approaches to Mental Illness

There are three dominant theories in sociological approach (a) stress theory,

(b) structural strain theory and (d) labelling theory.

1.2.1 Stress Theory
Selye (1956) studied animals exposed to negative stimuli and found three stages
of responses. These are (i) Flight or fight, (ii) Resistance and (iii) Exhaustion.
At exhaustion stage, animal develops illness. It is demonstrated that prolonged
exposure to negative stress produces illness.
Holmes and Rahe (1967) conducted research on life events. They examined the
major life events and an individuals ability to cope with them. They found 43 major
life events. They also discovered that the more life events an individual experienced

in a given time, the more likely he were to experience mental injury, to become ill, or
even to die.
Several studies reported the alliance of major life events with the onset of
depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety related other mental disorders. It has also been
discovered that undesirable events were more strongly associated with mental
disorders than were desirable ones.
According to the findings of Brown and Harris (1978) major negative life
events make an individual vulnerable to clinical depression. It has also been
established that certain types of life events are more likely to be associated with
development of mental disorders.
The researchers, using the social structure and personality approach, have
identified a number of stress related patterns of behaviour. The stress process model
attempts to help in understanding the social connections among stressful events and
1.2.2 Structural Strain Theory
This theory assumes that the origins of stress remain in broader organization of
society, where some groups have to stay in relatively disadvantaged conditions.
According to Mertons anomie theory

(i) American culture emphasizes

success and wealth, (ii) educational system is route to success and wealth, (iii) large
segments of society see themselves as blocked from education and therefore from
success (Merton, 1964).
There remains a gap between aspirations and means to achieve goals and this
leads those who are blocked into other routes, which may include crime, mental
illness, or substance abuse.
Societys organization puts some groups at an economic disadvantageous
condition. Economic disadvantage is a strain that leads to higher rates of
psychological breakdown.
1.2.3 Labelling Theory
Assumption of this theory is that the people who are labeled as deviant become
deviant. Everyone violates social norms at some time. When rule-breakers are low
status, higher status agents of social control (police, social workers, judges,

psychiatrists) can force rule-breakers into treatment. Individuals, who are as labeled
as mentally ill, become then stereotyped as dangerous, unpredictable and likely to
behave in bizarre ways.
Labelled people are (a) treated as irresponsible, (b) denied access to normal
activities, (c) forced to spend time with other deviants, (d) get socialized into mental
patient culture, adopting mental patient worldview and (e) take on identity of a mental
As this theory does not explain initial causes of deviant behaviour so it has
limited usefulness. But it has, however, sensitized mental health personnel to the
dangers of institutionalization.
Labelling theory emphasizes the processes by which an individual comes to
accept a negative characteristic as part of his/her identity. As applied to mental health,
labelling theory emphasizes different agents of social control employed to segregate
and label criminal versus ill groups.

Discussion and Justification of the Premise I (i.e., Society produces mental

Four major sociological perspectives have been outlined in course of presenting
the theoretical perspectives of mental illness within sociology. The perspectives are
social causation, critical theory, social constructivism and social realism.
Again, three dominant theories have been presented in sociological approaches
to mental illness and these are stress theory, structural strain theory and labelling
Different perspectives and theories presented the social causes of mental illness
in different ways, but there is an agreement about profound influence of society in
producing mental illness. Thus, the Premise I (i.e., Society produces mental illness.)
may be established.

Premise II: Neo-liberal globalized society is a risk society.


Neo-liberalism is a thought that defences the free capitalist system appearing in

1970s* insisted on private monopoly capitalism against the state monopoly in

economy. Neo-liberalism is a loosely demarcated set of political beliefs which most
prominently and prototypically include the conviction that the only legitimate purpose
of the state is to safeguard an individuals commercial interest, his liberty and strong
private property rights (Mises, 1962; Nozick, 1974; Hayek, 1979).
Neo-liberalism generally includes the belief that freely adopted market
mechanisms is the optimal way of organising all exchanges of goods and services
(Friedman, 1962; 1980; Norberg, 2001). It is believed that the creative potential and
the entrepreneurial spirit would be set free by free markets and free trade. This, in
turn, is built into the spontaneous order of any human society. Thereby, it can lead to
more individual liberty as well as wellbeing, and a more competent distribution of
resources (Hayek, 1973; Rothbard, 2004).
Therefore, the practical implementation of neo-liberal policies will lead to a
relocation of power from political to economic processes; from the state to markets
and individuals; and finally from the legislature and executives authorities to the

Indian Perspective
The Indian economy ran into a major systemic crisis in the late 1980s. Along

with the collapse of Soviet style command economies, it signalled the unsustainability of an economic system built on absolute or near total control of the state
over the economy. The philosophy of neo-liberalism was helped spread in India by
this crisis. This led to the lesson from the experience of centralized planning for the
goals of rapid economic growth and poverty reduction. As state control over the
market economy does not work and hence should be abandoned.
Since then a gradual process of two decades gives rise to a competitive market
economy, which has been incorporated into the global economy. Thus a structural
adjustment programme has been evolved. Against the privileged position of planners,

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, it was found that the market, by itself, could not manage
the economic chaos. Keynes was one of the firsts to advocate government spending as a means of
stimulating the economy (Stephen & Eugen, 1977) and creating employment opportunities.

this new paradigm also protracted the supremacy of the mass of homoeconomicus
(optimizing economic man, whether as consumers or producers). Their decision
making transpires in and through this global competitive market regime. (Chakrabarti,
Microeconomic environment constituted by the competitive market economy
and populated by free agents can and does produce economic and social disasters also.
Far from being self-regulating, markets (leaving people, regions and even nations
struggling to survive) may produce total self-destruction.

Discussion and Justification of the Premise II (i.e., Neo-liberal

globalized society is a risk society.)

Neo-liberal globalized society is new type of society. In this society people now
are struggling to survive. There is no time to waste and no time to kill, even no time to
ponder over in this market oriented society. At the same time everybody is worrying
to loose the existence, and thereby, feeling anxiety. Therefore, Premise II (i.e., Neoliberal globalized society is a risk society.) may be justified.
Conclusion I (Drawn from Premise-I &II): Severe mental illness is being
produced in modern times.

Social Anxiety in the Risk Society

Starting from the mid-1980s on in particular, new social anxieties in advanced

industrial societies have built up around nuclear, chemical, environmental, biological

and medical issues (Goode & Ben-Yehuda 1994; Hanmer 1987; Rothman & Lichter
1988; Ungar, 1998a, 1998b).
Beck (1992, 1995) subsumes these new sites of social anxiety under the concept
of a risk society. While risks are an inevitable consequence of industrialization, Beck
claims that the side effects produced by late modernization are a new development.
As compared to the recent past (and especially prior to the Second World War), these
risks have novel impacts that are (a) very complex in terms of causation; (b)
unpredictable and latent; (c) not limited by time, space, or social class (i.e., globalize);
(d) not detectable by physical senses; and (e) are the result of human decisions (Ali,

Prevalence of Mental Disorder

Mental and behavioural disorders are common, affecting more than 25% of all
people at some time during their lives (Regier, et al., 1988; Wells, et al., 1989;
Almeida-Filho, et al., 1997). These problems are also universal affecting
individuals of all countries and societies; at all ages and of both gender; being the rich
and the poor; coming from urban and rural environments. There are economic impacts
on societies and on the quality of life of individuals and families.
From WHO report (2001) we come to know (a) Mental and behavioural
disorders are present in about 10% of the adult population at any point in time; (b)
around 20% of all patients treated by primary health care professionals have one or
more mental problems; (c) one in four families is likely to have at least one member
with a behavioural or mental disorder; again these families not only provide physical
and emotional support, but also bear the negative impact of stigma and discrimination.
It was estimated that, in 1990, mental and neurological disorders accounted for
10% of the total DALY*s lost due to all diseases and injuries. This was 12% in 2000.
By 2020, it is projected that the problem of these disorders will have increased to
15%. Common disorders, usually causing severe disability, include (i) depressive
disorders, (ii) substance use disorders, (iii) schizophrenia, (iv) epilepsy, (v)
Alzheimers disease, (vi) mental retardation, and (vii) disorders of childhood and
Factors associated with the occurrence, onset and course of mental and
behavioural disorders include (i) poverty, (ii) gender, (iii) age, (iv) conflicts and
disasters, (v) major physical diseases, and (vi) the family and social environment.
(The World Health Report, 2001).

Discussion and Justification of the Conclusion I (i.e., Severe mental illness

is being produced in modern times.)

It is easy to establish the new relations and consequences in the modern society
among sociological perspectives (i.e., social causation, critical theory, social
constructivism and social realism), and sociological approaches (i.e., stress theory,

Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY), quantifying the burden of disease from mortality and
Definition One DALY can be thought of as one lost year of healthy life. The sum of these DALYs
across the population, or the burden of disease, can be thought of as a measurement of the gap between
current health status and an ideal health situation where the entire population lives to an advanced age,
free of disease and disability.

structural strain theory and labelling theory) in producing new type of mental
problems. This may be the justification of drawing the conclusion I (i.e., Severe
mental illness is being produced in modern times.).
Premise - III: Physical activity brings forth psychological wellbeing **.

Physical Activity and Health Benefits

A wide range of health benefit is associated with physical activity. The absence

of physical activities can have harmful effects on physical health and mental
wellbeing. Absence of physical activities increases the risk for coronary heart disease,
diabetes, certain cancers, obesity, hypertension and all cause mortality (CDC, 1996).
Physical inactivity may also be associated with the development of mental disorders.
Some clinical and epidemiological (cross-sectional and prospective longitudinal
studies) studies have shown associations between physical activity and symptoms of
depression and anxiety (Abu-Omar, et al. 2004a, b; Bhui & Fletcher, 2000; Farmer,
et al. 1988; Dunn, et al. 2001; Goodwin, 2003; Haarasilta, et al. 2004; Lampinen,
et al. 2000; Motl, et al. 2004). Moreover, exercise is an integral part in the treatment
and rehabilitation of many medical conditions. Improving physical wellbeing may
also lead to improved psychological wellbeing and is generally accepted that physical
activity may have positive effects on mood and anxiety. Mental ill health is a shortlived occurrence of negative emotions such as stress, depression and anxiety (Biddle
& Mutrie, 2001).
In terms of the relationship between physical activity and mental health,
evidence suggests that in the conventional method of maintenance and treatment of
mental health problems physical activity can be used as an adjunct treatment (Scully,
et al, 1998).
Furthermore, physical activity is also known to be an effective coping strategy
to help minimize these negative emotions and therefore promotes good mental health

Psychological wellbeing or good mental health can be difficult to define as it can be determined by a
multiplicity of factors (European Commission, 2005). It has been said that it is related to self-esteem,
cognitive functioning, personality and mood, including positive effects such as happiness, vigour and
morale and negative effects such as depression and anxiety (Brown, et at, 1992). The negative effects
of mental health such as depression and anxiety can have a debilitative effect on our psychological well
being. Psychological well being can be associated with our health-related quality of life (HRQL;
Rejeski, Brawley & Shumaker, 1996). This is typically defined in terms of a persons perceptions of
their own functions which are outlined by a number of HRQL measures including physical symptoms
such as energy and fatigue, emotional symptoms such as depression and anxiety, social functioning
such as forming relationships with family and friends, and cognitive functioning such as attention span
and problem solving (Rejeski et al., 1996).

within non-clinical populations (Mc Auley, 1992). Negative emotions such as

depression and anxiety can however be longer in duration and can disrupt everyday
functioning; these are then defined as mental health disorders (Mc Auley, 1992).
Further evidence suggests that physical activity can be used in clinical populations,
such as those with mental health disorders. For instance, results from a meta-analysis
investigated the effects of physical activity as a treatment for depression and
concluded that physical activity led to a greater reduction in depressive symptoms
compared to no treatment (Lawlor & Hopker, 2001). There is also evidence which
suggests that physical activity may also be helpful on more severe mental health
disorders such as schizophrenia and psychosis (Ellis, et al, 2007; Faulkner & Biddle,
1999). As a consequence of this evidence, there has been an increased use of physical
activity in mental health care as an adjunct to treatment, and in some cases, as an
integral part of the care plan approach to health care (Crone, Heaney & Owens,

Discussion and Justification of the Premise III (i.e., Physical activity

brings forth psychological wellbeing.)

Promotion of active lifestyles can help an individual address some of the
important challenges. Increased physical activity has the potential to improve the
physical and mental health of an individual. This also reduces all causes of mortality
and improves life expectancy. Thus money can also be saved by significantly
decreasing the burden of chronic diseases. Again, increasing cycling and walking may
augment health related physical fitness, reduce transport costs, save money and at the
same time help the environment not to be polluted. Other potential benefits linked
with physical activity in children and young people include the acquisition of social
skills through active play (leadership, teamwork and co-operation), better
concentration in school and displacement of anti-social and criminal behaviour
(Warwick, Mooney, & Oliver, 2009). Thus, Premise III (i.e., Physical activity
brings forth psychological wellbeing.) may be justified.

Premise IV: Sporting behaviour and physical education include physical



Sporting Behaviour and Physical education

Sporting behaviour and physical education significantly contributes to students

wellbeing. Therefore, it is an instructional priority for school curriculum and an

integral part of the students educational experience. Instruction of high quality
physical education (i) contributes to maintain good health, (ii) develops fundamental
and advanced motor skills, (iii) improves students self-confidence, and (iv) provides
opportunities for increased levels of physical fitness that are associated with high
academic achievement.
Mastering fundamental movement skills at an early age establishes a foundation
that facilitates further motor skill acquisition and gives students increased capacity for
a lifetime of successful and enjoyable physical activity experiences. Similarly, the
patterns of physical activity acquired during childhood and adolescence are likely to
be maintained throughout ones life span, providing physical, mental, and social

Discussion and Justification of the Premise IV (i.e., Sporting behaviour

and physical education include physical activities.)

It is implied that sporting behaviour and physical education include enormous
physical activities and there may be the sufficient ground for justification of the
premise IV (i.e., Sporting behaviour and physical education include physical
Conclusion II (Drawn from Premise-III & IV): Sporting behaviour and
physical education have profound impact on maintaining mental health.

Three Ways-aspects
It may be discussed as follows aspects (a) preventive, (b) curative, (c)

(a) Preventive Sporting behaviour and physical education may bring forth
psychological wellbeing. A psychologically strong person can face the problem
cropped up in the new era as challenging but not as threatening. When one considers a
problem as a challenge s/he sets out for finding solutions with effective strategies and
not feels stress. But if a problem is considered as a threat it inevitably produce stress
and consequently anxiety.


(b) Curative A stress stricken person may be treated with the help of sporting
behaviour and physical education. A good number of allied literatures suggest the
curative aspects of physical activities.
(c) Promotive In some cases medicine is essential for treating a stress stricken
person. But most of the psychotropic medicines may produce obesity as one of the
major side effects. In managing this side effect physical activities help to promote
health. Again in the era of speed and machine dependency some life style diseases
like coronary heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, obesity, hypertension and all
cause mortality may be managed by physical activities.

Discussion and Justification of the Conclusion II (i.e., Sporting behaviour

and physical education have profound impact on maintaining mental health.)

Combination of premise III (i.e., Physical activity brings forth psychological
wellbeing.) and premise IV (i.e., Sporting behaviour and physical education include
physical activities.) logically implies conclusion II (i.e., Sporting behaviour and
physical education have profound impact on maintaining mental health.). Thus
conclusion II may be justified.
Combining Conclusion I (i.e., Severe mental illness is being produced in
modern times.) and Conclusion II (i.e., Sporting behaviour and physical
education have profound impact on maintaining mental health.)
7. Finale Remark
Now the time has come to discuss the main objective of this paper. In the neoliberal globalized society huge amount of scopes and facilities is there to avail, but at
the same time an alarmingly large quantum of health related problems has been
cropped up as bi-product. Again, sporting behaviour and physical education have been
proved to have enormous impact on maintaining mental as well as physical health.
Now, physical education is rightly being called health education. Physical education
(i.e., health education) has its crucial role to play in the modern society.


A Summon to the People of Physical Education


You the experts of physical education come forward to rescue people from the
plight caused by the recent socioeconomic change in the global society. You can also
avail the opportunities evolved through the expansion and revolution in information
technology. Please (i) restructure your curricular content and methodology to cater
the demand of the time, (ii) increase professionalism at par the requirement of modern
times, (iii) by taking the opportunities of modern information technology, disseminate
the literature in popular way and make the people (particularly, young students)
interested in physical education and sports, and thereby, in physical activities, (iv)
above all put thinking and not just duplicate, so on and so forth. There is no much
time to waste.
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