Swimming saves health system £357 million a year

By GreaterSport | 04 November 2019 | TAGS: swimming, research

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Swimming is helping to save the health and social care system more than £357 million a year, according to new research.

The cost of savings to the NHS are revealed in Swim England’s Value of Swimming report, which outlines how water-based activity is making a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of the nation.

Now Swim England is calling on the Government and healthcare professionals to ‘maximise the benefits’ swimming can offer to ‘help people live longer, better, happier lives’.

In the most comprehensive report of its kind ever carried out by a sporting national governing body, Swim England’s in-depth study shows the vital role swimming plays in preventing, and treating, physical and mental health conditions.

According to the analysis, the largest health savings are made up from dementia (£139,546,106) and strokes (£100,046,173).

Other key savings are made in diabetes (£37,446,191), colon cancer (£10,433,330), breast cancer (£9,830,341) and depression (£9,501,792).

The report also reveals how £51,048,348 is saved as a result of reduced GP and psychotherapy visits by those who swim regularly.

The research is based on data collected on regular swimmers at over 1,000 pools in England over the past 12 months. The data was then applied to academic research undertaken by Sheffield Hallam University using the industry recognised Social Value Calculator tool to calculate the cost savings to the health and social care system.

Other key highlights published in the report include:

  • Swimmers report feeling on average 6.4% healthier than non-swimmers – this is comparable to feeling 12 years younger
  • Adults who swim were 4.3% happier than non-swimmers
  • Swimming outdoors more than doubles this happiness boost – lifting the moods of the nearly 7.5 million adults who swim outdoors each year
  • Of the 4.7 million adults who swim at least twice a month, more than half (2.7 million) are women. The report highlights how swimming particularly benefits women and girls, more than doubling their self-confidence
  • 4 million adults feel that swimming had significantly reduced their symptoms of anxiety and or depression
  • The 1.88 million children aged 7-16 years in England who swim rate a “higher feeling of life being worthwhile” compared to those who didn’t
  • Whilst in the last 12 months 14 million adults went swimming, the benefits to the nation could be even greater if progress can be made amongst the 1 in 3 adults in England that cannot swim
  • Swimmers are more likely to be socially connected – and 26.7% less likely to have no friends compared to non-swimmers

Swim England has made a number of recommendations in the report to help swimming deliver even greater health, wellbeing and social benefits for people and communities across England.

It is urging government to fully recognise the role and benefits of water-based exercise through direct funding to increase proven health-based water interventions.

Swim England is also calling for more social prescribing of swimming by health professionals to further reduce GP visits and increase cost savings in health and social care. 

In addition, the report calls for direct investment and support to develop the next generation of pools and encourages pool operators, local authorities and trusts to work together with Swim England to offer its Water Wellbeing Programme and improve the social impact of local facilities.

Jane Nickerson, CEO of Swim England, said: “This report proves what those involved with swimming have known for a long time – that it truly has the power to help people live longer, better, happier lives.

“For the first time, it has highlighted how swimming saves our health and social care system hundreds of millions of pounds a year and the vital role it plays in tackling some of our biggest health conditions.

“However, we will only be able to maximise the benefits swimming can offer the nation by working in partnership with government, healthcare professionals and the wider swimming sector and we look forward to working together with them to deliver on the recommendations in the report.”

Steve Wright, from County Durham, is one of a number of people across the country who has benefitted from swimming after being diagnosed with a chronic illness.

The 63-year-old was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes more than 10 years ago and, after suffering from a stroke last year, worked with a medical professional who suggested that he gave regular swimming a try.

Nearly a year later, his diabetes is under control and his overall health has improved.

He said: “I guess I’m living proof of how swimming can make a real difference to people who are diagnosed with a serious or chronic health condition and it’s great to see this spelt out so clearly in this report.

“I spent many years ignoring the health warnings and as a result lost the majority of the feeling in both of my feet as well as struggling with mobility.

“I wish I had taken up swimming many years ago and if I could offer any advice to people it would be to try and introduce some exercise into your life.

“I’ve found that the exercise that works for me is swimming and I can’t recommend it highly enough.”

To find your nearest pool and swimming activity visit the pool finder tool at www.swimming.org/poolfinder/

Read the full report online here.

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