Study: A Winning Sports Team Means People Have Sex

Researchers in Barcelona "infer that the heightened euphoria following a victory can cultivate hedonic sensations."
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Football Club Barcelona celebrates after Andrés Iniesta's game-winning goal. (Dylan Martinez/Reuters)

I get it, sort of. Your favorite team wins the big game by being the absolute best at putting whatever sized ball in a pre-determined location that we arbitrarily assign value to, and the world seems a little brighter. Less cruel. Maybe like a place you could bring a child into after all. There’s revelry in the streets, or just in your living room, and you want to celebrate.

On May 6, 2009, there was just such a celebration in Catalonia, Spain when Andrés Iniesta scored a last-minute goal for Football Club Barcelona (Barça) against Chelsea FC, moving Barça into the UEFA Champions League final. Nine months later, the media reported a 45 percent increase of births in the region.

That was a bit of an exaggeration, according to a new study in the British Medical Journal, but the birth rate did spike after the season-making goal—by 16 percent. That’s still a lot of babies Iniesta could conceivably (sorry) take credit for.

Researchers analyzed the births in two central Catalonia hospitals nine months after the goal (February 2010). “Josep Guardiola, FC Barcelona’s coach from 2008 to 2012, was born in this region…so it seemed fair to assume that the population might have a heightened level of enthusiasm for Barça,” the study reads.

They compared the births during this month to a control period of 60 months—from January 2007 to December 2011. There were significantly more births in February 2010 than in other Februarys (16 percent), and there was an 11 percent increase in births that March as well.

“We may infer that—at least among the target population—the heightened euphoria following a victory can cultivate hedonic sensations that result in intimate celebrations, of which unplanned births may be a consequence,” the researchers wrote.

They go on to describe a possible psychological reason for this—that humans just love belonging, and a shared euphoria over a beloved sports team’s victory could bubble over, making you want to spread your joy to others. Sex, of course, being one way to do that. And, as the study notes, “rationality is not always a key factor in conception.” So, babies.

Of course, it’s worth noting that this is the sort of study that it’s nigh impossible to replicate, and the researchers do make a point to say we can’t be sure it was Iniesta’s golden foot that caused the birth rate spike. But it’s interesting to consider, especially since the study notes that other seasonal and social factors have been shown to influence the birth rate, one of those being Christmas. Nine months later, in September, comes a reliable rush of babies, conceived, perhaps, out of a desire to spread Yuletide joy.

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Julie Beck is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where she covers health.

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