Playing Aussie Rules football keeps Indigenous people happier and healthier.

That’s the finding of a new West Australian study which says Indigenous adult football players are twice as likely to rate their health as excellent than those who don’t play the game.

The study was prepared by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre.

Report author, associate professor Mike Dockery, said playing Aussie Rules didn’t just have physical benefits but was also good for mental health and could help to make for happier communities.

He said the game had an important role to play in engaging disaffected youth. It also brought communities together.

“Football offers opportunities to strengthen and pass on kinship networks, and for men and women to gather separately to talk about issues,” he said.

“It’s not just players, it’s umpires, bus drivers, cooks, administrators, friends, family – football brings the whole community together.

“We found playing football led to better school attendance for Indigenous boys in remote areas.

“Football clubs and carnivals are being used to deliver road safety and anti-domestic violence programs, to conduct health checks, and vehicle safety and seat-belt checks.”

But he said some remote centres did not have junior football competitions — and it was something governments and local authorities could work on with the AFL.