Loneliness and sport – epidemiology and circumstances: Evidence for an increase in group cohesion



While exercise in permanent isolation (ISS, CONCORDIA, etc.) is mainly regarded as a countermeasure to peripheral-physiological deconditioning (musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular system), scientific research in the last decade has also clearly exhibited the beneficial effects of exercise on central nervous activity, especially on cognitive performance, mental health and mood. Exercise might therefore be regarded as a global instrument for not only counteracting peripheral processes but also for proactively optimising and maximizing crew performance during confinement. One of the major problems of current exercise programs in space/confinement is that these exercise
programs are inherently ”unsocial“, i.e. everyone performs by him or herself. It is well known from studies on the earth, that the positive effect of exercise is also attributable to a ‘social environment’. Especially the effects on belonging and social cohesion are particular important aspects of exercising in a group (Brembs 2009).


systematic literature review; ross-sectional study; longitudinal study; experimental study

Zentrale Forschungsergebnisse

A systematic literature search was conducted to identify all empirical studies assessing this relationship. A total of 37 studies stemming from 36 publications met the inclusion criteria. Study analyses comprised an individual consideration of each study and a systematic summarization of the studies. The majority of eligible studies focused on adolescent or elderly populations. Direct, negative associations between PA and loneliness were found in half of the 24 cross-sectional studies. Of the seven identified longitudinal studies, one found a direct, negative influence of PA on loneliness. Four longitudinal studies found evidence for a reverse influence, namely of loneliness on PA. Five intervention studies found PA to reduce loneliness. Two of the cross-sectional studies and one of the intervention studies found social support and social competence to moderate or to mediate the relationship between PA and loneliness. The previous findings indicate that PA can contribute to a decrease in loneliness. However, studies also indicate that any beneficial effect is dependent upon the quality of relationships present during physical activity. Additionally, loneliness itself might reduce the probability of being physically active.

Subsequently, in our cross-sectional and longitudinal study we found loneliness to be negatively associated with social well-being in sport groups and identification with a sport group. An experiment showed that social well-being can be enhanced by cooperative sport tasks.
Tatsächlicher Beginn/ -es Ende01.04.1231.03.15


  • loneliness
  • physical activity
  • relationship
  • relatedness
  • social well-being
  • group identification
  • systematic review
  • sport group