AbstractMany individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) experience high levels of loneliness and poor life satisfaction. Outside the SCI population, physical activity (PA) is associated with lower levels of loneliness and improved life satisfaction. Among people with SCI, PA is positively associated with life satisfaction, but the relationship between PA and loneliness is unknown. The current study examined the relationship between PA and loneliness among people with SCI, and examined loneliness as a possible mediator of the relationship between PA and life satisfaction. A cross-sectional telephone survey was administered to adults with SCI (N = 170). Measures of PA (i.e., The Leisure Time Physical Activity Questionnaire-SCI), loneliness (i.e., UCLA Loneliness Scale-3), and life satisfaction (i.e., Life Satisfaction Questionnaire-11) were administered. The sample was mostly male (n = 136), over 10-years post injury (n = 122), and had experienced a traumatic SCI (n = 149). Bivariate Pearson correlations revealed significant relationships between PA and life satisfaction (r = .18, p = .02), PA and loneliness (r = -.15, p = .045), and loneliness and life satisfaction (r = -.69, p < .001). Mediation analyses suggest that the relationship between PA and life satisfaction among people with SCI may be partially explained by loneliness (Sobel test: z = 2.00, p = .046). Further research using longitudinal and experimental designs are warranted. PA programs serving people with SCI might consider modifying program delivery and contextual factors to target changes in loneliness, and maximize life satisfaction outcomes among people with SCI.
Acknowledgments: Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, UHN: Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Rick Hansen Foundation, and Jousse Long-Term Follow-up Database