Positive collateral damage or purposeful design: How sport-based interventions impact the psychological well-being of people in prison

David Woods*, David Hassan, Gavin Breslin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


The primary aim of this study was to identify how sport based interventions impact psychological well-being within the prison population, considering both the hedonic and eudaimonic perspectives, namely the experience of positive affect and healthy psychological functioning and self-realisation. The study focuses on the perspective of those involved in either the design, delivery or oversight of sport based interventions within prison, collectively referred to as stakeholders throughout. Results were presented within a thematic framework to aid the future design and delivery of sport based interventions within the prison environment. A second aim was to link the themed framework to psychological theories of health behaviour change, a quality assurance recommendation by the Medial Research Council, but not achieved to date in the literature.

A total of 16 stakeholders were interviewed to ascertain their views on constituent components of the interventions contributing to psychological well-being. Inductive thematic content analysis was adopted and the emergent themes are discussed within the context of extant psychological theory and recent relevant research to understand how they positively impact psychological well-being.

Six themes emerged, reflecting the spoken words of participants: 1) “Relating and Relationships”; 2) “Sense of Achievement”; 3) “Sporting Occasions”; 4) “In Their Hands”; 5) “Facing Forward”; and 6) “Creating a Life Rhythm”. The psychological theories identified as underpinning these themes were Basic Psychological Needs Theory, Self-Identity Theory, and Self-Categorisation Theory.

Collectively, the themes and psychological theories identified, offer a new framework for the effective design and delivery of sport based interventions within prison that will potentially maximise benefit to prisoner psychological well-being. The new conceptual framework includes constructs from three psychological theories, suggesting that one theory alone cannot account for the complexities of designing interventions to enhance psychological well-being for prisoners. We invite researchers to go beyond designing ad-hoc programmes and to adopt and evaluate the proposed framework in future trial based research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-162
Number of pages11
JournalMental Health and Physical Activity
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Sport
  • Physical activity
  • Mental health
  • Resilience
  • Exercise


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