Overheard from the field part 2: how equality and well-being impacts varied across different sports and genders

At We Foundation and in sports clubs, we share a common goal: to create a more equal and well-being-promoting experience for every child and youth. The data we have gathered together with sports clubs and hobby providers sheds light on whether there are differences in well-being experiences between different sports or genders—and whether equality has been achieved for everyone in the same way.

In a previous blog post, we examined the data collected by We Foundation and Finnish sports clubs regarding the accessibility of recreational activities and their impact on well-being at a general level. We also provided tips for creating more equal opportunities in sports.

In this blog, we'll once again delve into the same data, but this time, we'll focus on the differences between different sports and genders.

What information have we collected?

We have gathered information in collaboration with twenty Finnish sports clubs to ensure equal opportunities for children and youth in sports and hobbies. We directly investigated with participants and their guardians, among other things:

- How children and young people from different family backgrounds engage in sports and hobby activities?

- How do children and young people perceive the impact of sports activities on their well-being?

- What protective factors against marginalization do children and young people have in their lives? (E.g., friendships and safe adults)

In our first blog post, we examined the general results of the survey. In this blog, however, we focus on gender and sport-specific differences.

Sports clubs reach more boys in vulnerable positions than girls

Recreational activities should reach children and young people regardless of their backgrounds. Therefore, we collected information about the socioeconomic background of families. Based on this data, there are minor differences in the accessibility of recreational activities based on gender.

Twenty percent of boys come from families where one or more socioeconomic factors are present: these families may have low income, parents with low education levels, or one or more parents who have been at home for extended periods due to prolonged unemployment, long-term illness, or disability. It could also involve single-parent households or situations where the child doesn't live with their parent(s). Among boys, 2.6 percent come from families where multiple of these factors are present.

On the other hand, 18 percent of girl participants come from families with these mentioned background factors. Disadvantage seems to accumulate more among boys engaged in activities: only 1.4 percent of girls come from families where there are two or more socioeconomic factors such as low education or low income.

One sport reaches significantly more disadvantaged participants

We observed slight differences in the accessibility of recreational activities among different sports. According to the data we collected, soccer reaches the most disadvantaged participants, accounting for 21 percent, while ice hockey reaches 19 percent of the same participants. We have limited information about other sports, and we are continually seeking new pilot clubs to join our research. If you're interested in the current results or would like to know more about them, please don't hesitate to reach out.

Especially teenage girls feel that their hobby is diminishing their well-being

In addition to assessing accessibility, we gathered information on how children, young people, and their guardians perceive the impact of hobbies on children's well-being. We also examined the protective factors children have in their lives against marginalization: whether they feel a sense of belonging, enthusiasm for learning new things, whether they have friendships, and safe adults in their lives.

Based on the data we collected, 44 percent of boys and 39 percent of girls feel that their hobby has increased their well-being in the past six months. These encouraging figures indicate that sports can be a real asset in the lives of young people.

However, it's important to note that not all respondents had an equally positive experience. Up to nine percent of the girls who responded feel that their hobby has had a negative impact on their well-being. For boys, this perception is shared by six percent. Among respondents over 15 years old, girls felt most strongly that their sports hobby has negatively affected their well-being.


These results provide us with valuable information on how we can make recreational activities even better and more equitable for all children and young people. We'll continue working towards these goals in collaboration with sports clubs. Every contribution matters. If you're passionate about this topic or would like to delve deeper into the results we've gathered so far, please don't hesitate to reach out.