A recent survey revealed a stark contrast in the number of close friends Americans have reported having over the past few decades.
An American Perspectives Survey conducted in May 2021 by the Survey Center of American Life has recently gained attention for its poignant reading of the state of friendships in America. The survey’s findings were posted online and completed with comparisons to similar questions from a survey conducted in 1990. The combined results show that Americans now have fewer close friendships than they once had. They talk to friends less often and rely less on their friends for emotional support.
The pandemic is an obvious factor in this shift; almost half of the participants (47%) reported losing touch with some friends between May 2020 and May 2021. Young women ages 18 to 29 were the group with the highest percentage (59%) of those that reported losing touch with at least a few friends during this period. At the same time, however, almost half of the participants (46%) reported making a new friend during this time.
While the pandemic is an obvious factor in recent social shifts, it is not the only factor at play. The Survey Center of American Life suggests that friendship changes are influenced by “broader structural forces,” like family life and work habits. For example, the survey found that Americans are working longer hours and traveling more for work, which could lead to struggles in maintaining friendships. Additionally, Americans are making friends at work (54%) more than any other place, followed by schools (47%), existing friendships (40%), neighborhoods (35%), places of worship (21%), clubs or organizations (19%) and online (8%). The survey’s findings demonstrate how the pandemic has impacted social relationships and the way Americans make, maintain and rely upon close friendships.
The results of the May 2021 American Perspectives Survey from the Survey Center of American Life have revealed a stark contrast in the number of friends people reported to have over the past few decades. In 1990, 33% of participants reported having 10 or more close friends, while only 13% said they had 10 or more close friends in 2021. Similarly, in 1990, 27% of participants reported having three or fewer close friends, while 37% reported having three or fewer close friends in 2021. Moreover, in 2021, 12% reported having no close friends, an increase of 9% from 1990.
Additionally, while fewer Americans reported having a best friend in 2021 than in 1990, a majority still said they had a best friend. These findings could be attributed to numerous types of friendships Americans reported having. Most participants (69%) responded that they have friends they see in specific places, like work, the gym, the park, school, or a coffee shop. Closely following this, 67% reported having known their friends since childhood. In addition, 51% said they have activity-based friendships, friends they only see during activities like sports, hobbies, or community events.
Overall, the survey’s findings suggest that the pandemic has left an undeniable impact on social relationships and the way Americans make, maintain, and rely upon close friendships. As the pandemic continues to disrupt our lives, the structure of friendships will likely continue to change in the future as well.