Americans are getting lonelier
April 13, 2007 at 12:45 p.m.
In 1985, the General Social Survey reported that Americans had an average of 2.94 close friends (familiar is the term researchers like to use). A recent survey from 2004 showed that the number of people they trust had dropped to 2.08. In other words, Americans, on average, have lost a friend with whom they discuss important matters. The relationships with the greatest decrease in intimate friends were neighbors and group / club members. We’re less than half as likely to be close friends today as we were in 1985. It’s really unfortunate because everyone could use more friends. The paper suggests that the nature of our social network has changed. Instead of a few strong ties, we have more weak ties.
Americans are less likely to have friends of a different level of education, but are more likely to have friends of a different race. In addition, educated Americans have larger and more diverse networks. That says something about the friendships you make during your college years – I find my closest friends come from internships and college.
McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Brashears, ME (2006). Social Isolation in America: Changes in Central Discussion Networks Over Two Decades. American Sociological Review, 71, 353-375. [PDF]
Entry filed under: Confidant Stranger, Friends, Relationships, Sociology.