07/11/2014 10:56 am ET Updated Sep 09, 2014

Dare to Be 100: The World Cup and Health

Defeat is probably more valuable to well-being than victory.

This reality was tested by Brazil's miserable performance in the current World Cup. The Internet overflowed with photos of the Brazilian fans following their tromping by the Germans. The Brazilians didn't just lose the game they were overwhelmed by a team from a European country where soccer is not the national religion as it is in Brazil. In anticipation of this match I had always hoped that this would be the final pairing for the World Cup, two superior teams. But the actual performance grossly failed to justify this hype. It was woefully dismal because of the one-sided nature of the contest.

My dismay grew as the game progressed and Brazil fragmented. Millions of their fans had waited a long time for this opportunity to strut their stuff on international Internet. This was fractured: heartbreak, anguish, hysteria were widely reported, even riots. Several reports said that both food and drink intake went up after the result was affirmed as the Brazilians sought visceral comfort after their profound loss.

Psychologists have reported that overeating and over drinking are predictable outcomes of any real or perceived loss. Not only personal dismay ruled after Brazil lost, but national prestige was bruised.

I certainly can recall my favorite teams getting skunked at a major contest. "Wait till next year" is the common default battle cry. I have suffered mightily when my teams were defeated. I have sat with great impatience as my Stanford football teams were regularly beaten soundly by USC. But recently the worm has turned, and it is hard not to gloat.

Or what about the poor Chicago Cub fans who have waited for decades for some glimmer of hope? I wonder whether their longevity is curtailed because of their perpetual losses. One may even wonder whether Brazilians will live a shorter life as a result of this debacle. A big loss literally breaks your heart. Yann Cornil, a French researcher, noted in a recent report that traffic deaths rose 133 percent following a tumultuous loss. (1)

I would guess that some enterprising psychology graduate student could create a thesis plan by surveying subsequent health patterns of people after a miserable defeat.

They already have? Please send me the references.

1. Mahony, G, Can Heart Break Affect Your Health? ABC News July 9, 2014.