The Friendship Recession
This website will list all the recent articles I can find which mentioned the so-called “friendship recession.”
Why a growing number of American men say they are in a ‘friendship recession’ by Geoff Bennett (Jan, 2024)
American men are stuck in what’s been dubbed a friendship recession, with 20 percent of single men now saying they don’t have any close friends. More than half of all men report feeling unsatisfied with the size of their friend groups. Geoff Bennett traveled to Phoenix to take a closer look at the implications of male loneliness and how some men are confronting it.
Florence Ann Romano, a personal growth strategist, also appeared on Fox 13 Seattle and believes the friendship recession may have stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic. People no longer knew how to socialize and found staying at home to be easier than going out and talking to others. As a huge introvert and pretty reserved person, I admit it can often be tempting to choose alone time instead of going out with friends. However, I did not fully register the impact the pandemic had on friendships until I reflected on my own relationships.
Why are men struggling to make and maintain friendships more than ever? And what can they—and the people who care about them—do to change this? We speak to two psychologists who specialize in friendships and men. We also hear from two guys who’ve been best friends for 30 years about their podcast on male friendship and how they keep the love alive.
And I did some soul searching. (I didn’t have much else to do!). What I realized was this: I was rapidly becoming that friendless dad I had pledged not to be. I was SO busy becoming someone that I had done, in truth, next to nothing to cultivate and build deep and deepening friendships with the friends I truly cared about.
In other words, I had a whole hell of a lot of Twitter followers and Facebook “friends” but very few people I could really open up to, almost no one I trusted fully and completely.
On top of these responsibilities, everything is more expensive, more competitive, more demanding. The pressure is real. It is no surprise that people are burnt out. In this context, the act of friendship now becomes a job. I would say that people could be having difficulty making friends because they are simply lacking energy. I would also add that such a stressful society impacts friend making by increasing the prevalence of poor mental health.
Published in March, Sapien Labs’ Mental State Of The World In 2022 report, which involved more than 407,000 participants from 64 countries, discovered people’s ‘social self ’ had nosedived over the past 12 months. That metric refers to your ability to maintain meaningful friendships and connections, and again, it was young people who’d lost out the most – 18-to-24-year-olds were more likely to have no close friends than those aged 75 and over. It’s a social shortfall reflected specifically in UK data, too.
Despite the ubiquity of social media and the language of connection, Americans struggle to build friendships. As a society, we are plagued by loneliness. In “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” the United States surgeon general details the health effects of social isolation and lack of community connections. The decline in friendship correlates to declining health outcomes across the population. “Lacking social connection,” the health advisory notes, “can increase the risk for premature death as much as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.” Social isolation and loneliness have been publicly debated for almost 25 years, since Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone (Simon & Schuster), yet the problem grows….
Recently, a study from the Survey Centre on American Life discovered that the percentage of men with at least six close friends fell by half since 1990, from 55 percent to 27 percent. The study also found that the percentage of men without any close friends jumped from 3 percent to 15 percent, a fivefold increase.
Recent research shows that the pandemic and social media both caused people to become “rusty” when it comes to making friends and creating emotional bonds. But there are ways to forge new friendships and infuse your life with a renewed sense of purpose and joy.
The friendship recession is a problem for the common good: U.S. Catholic by Meghan J. Clark (July, 2023)
Despite the ubiquity of social media and the language of connection, Americans struggle to build friendships. As a society, we are plagued by loneliness. In “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” the United States surgeon general details the health effects of social isolation and lack of community connections. The decline in friendship correlates to declining health outcomes across the population. “Lacking social connection,” the health advisory notes, “can increase the risk for premature death as much as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.” Social isolation and loneliness have been publicly debated for almost 25 years, since Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone (Simon & Schuster), yet the problem grows.
My husband never sees his friends – he’s part of the male ‘friendship recession’: inews.co UK by Lucy Dunn (July, 2023)
As I reach my fifties, friendless husbands seem to be a thing. My own husband, Kern, is one of them. The few friends he has – his bromance with golfing mate Duncan is a lovely thing to see – he can count on one hand, and he hardly sees them. And while I don’t like to judge, I do get slightly irritated that 99.9 percent of the time he leaves it up to me to fill up the social diary. But it’s one of the many fleeting niggles of being married to someone for 21 years and not worth fighting over.
Here’s why experts say men need more friends in their lives — and how they can make them: Salon by Mary Elizabeth Williams (June, 2023)
Siple says, “Many men (myself included) struggle with being proactive in our male relationships. It is important for men to explore any and every outlet to make and maintain these connections. Formality isn’t necessary. Whether it’s a running group, trivia team, Bible study, or whatever, I believe this social connectivity is an incredibly important aspect of our mental health.”
‘We don’t do deep emotional discussions’: why men lose their friends – and how they can make more: The Guardian by Sam Wollaston (May, 2023)
Dr Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist, and a top researcher into friends and friendship, says that, though some might not want to believe it, men’s and women’s friendships are different. Women’s friendships tend to be more personalized and dyadic: who you are is the most important thing. “Men’s friendships are more clubby, and in some sense anonymous – it matters more what you are than who you are,” he says. “In other words, do you belong to my club? If you do, that qualifies you to be a friend, and anybody who ticks that box can be substituted in if you don’t turn up or go off to Thailand for ever, or whatever. A lot of men’s friendships seem to be built around activities, so conversation is quite unimportant, and is largely designed to trigger laughter as much as anything else. Men don’t do deep emotional discussions about friendships.”
Opinion piece: Rebuilding communities in a ‘friendship recession’: The Daily Telegraph by Andrew Leigh (May, 2023)
Even before the pandemic community engagement was declining. In Reconnected: A Community Builder’s Handbook, Nick Terrell and I documented a drop in the share of Australians playing organized sport, volunteering, attending religious services, joining a union, donating to charity or joining community organizations.
Whom do you go to when you need to talk?
You might call a parent, drop in on a sibling, or maybe spend some time with a friend. Whether you’ve known them since nappies or met them a week ago, the fact is, friendship is an intrinsic part of human nature — something that may be reflected in the fact that people with stronger social relationships have a 50 percent lower mortality risk than those without. Unsurprisingly, loneliness does the opposite: increasing this risk by 26 per cent, with one study likening its detrimental effects to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Still, one in eight Britons (12 per cent), say that they have just one person whom they consider to be a close friend. By all indicators, the friendship pool seems to be running dry, and with rates of loneliness reaching record highs, it seems that the friendship economy is entering a hopeless depression.
Zerodha co-founder Nikhil Kamath is worried about friendship recession. Here’s what it means: Money Control by Ankita Sengupta (May 2023)
Zerodha co-founder Nikhil Kamath recently shared that he is worried about the world facing a “friendship recession” with a number of people admitting to lacking close friends. The billionaire added that he has five friends that he would “do all for”.
What Is a Friendship Recession and Why Are We Currently In One?: Reader’s Digest by Jessica Kaplan (May 2023)
According to a 2021 survey done by the Survey Center on American Life, a friendship recession describes an uptick in the average time spent alone, the number of friends one has and overall time devoted to friendship. The survey found that since 1990, the number of men with at least six close friends decreased from 55% to 27%. Similarly, for men who identified as having zero close friends, the numbers jumped from 3% to 15%.
The Friendship Recession: Connection and Isolation in the Digital Age: Not Alone by Matthew Frank (April, 2023)
What could be causing our acquaintanceships to fizzle? It boils down to a number of factors that have slowly taken hold of our lives, many of which are tied to our modern lifestyles. Firstly, technology has enabled an ease of communication that has replaced face-to-face interactions. Far from being social, however, these means of connecting–not least of all the Internet–have only served to add further distance between us.
For decades, studies have consistently shown that men have fewer friends – and especially fewer close friends – than women. “As men get older, we often become trapped in tiny social circles,” says Flanagan. Sadly, it’s a situation I know well. A couple of years ago, I planned on proposing to my girlfriend only to realize I had no one to call on as my best man. Ever since, I’ve tried to get to the bottom of men’s friendship problems. And explore solutions, like this one.
Loneliness was already on the rise before the pandemic. The current U.S. surgeon general called loneliness a public health concern back in 2017, and census data between 2014 and 2019 revealed that the amount of time Americans spent with their friends decreased each year — leading to what some experts have called a friendship recession. So, it’s no surprise that a recent study found 20% of younger adults are lonely.
Americans without friends have increased 250% in recent years. Here’s why. Richard Reeves, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, discusses the importance of friendships and the potential “friendship recession.” He notes that loneliness can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, but measuring and quantifying friendships is difficult. According to Reeves, an ideal number of close friends is around three or four…
I’m thirsty for friends. It’s embarrassing. I’m far too old to be courting acquaintances like some middle school girl at Claire’s, harassing strangers for their opinion on $5 earrings. But here we are.
American men appear to be stuck in a “friendship recession” — a trend that predates the Covid-19 pandemic but that seems to have accelerated over the past several years as loneliness levels have crept up worldwide. In a 2021 survey of more than 2,000 adults in the United States, less than half of the men said they were truly satisfied with how many friends they had, while 15 percent said they had no close friends at all — a fivefold increase since 1990. That same survey found that men were less likely than women to rely on their friends for emotional support or to share their personal feelings with them.
The ‘friendship recession’ phrasing – showing that 15% of American men and 10% of women reported having ‘no friends.’ This spike looks sinister when contrasted with 1990’s data, in which 3% of men and 2% of women expressed the same sentiment.
‘Some weeks I only speak to the postman’: how to escape learned loneliness – and soar socially: The Guardian by Anita Chaudhuri (Feb 2023)
Meanwhile, in the US, the term “friendship recession” entered the lexicon after census data revealed that Americans were spending an ever-decreasing amount of time with friends. The blame cannot solely be put on the pandemic because the decline has been steady since 2014. A decade ago, people spent six and a half hours a week with close friends, but by 2021 that figure had plummeted to just 2hr 45min.
There has been plenty of talk of an economic recession, but the under-the-radar recession no one is talking about has to do with our relationships. In our post-COVID society, we might think isolation is in the rearview. And with practically unlimited access to people and information at our fingertips, we might also think that connection is easier than ever — but surveys show that there are a lot of lonely people out there.
Ever since a notorious chart showing that fewer people are having sex than ever before first made the rounds, there’s been increased interest in the state of America’s social health. Polling has demonstrated a marked decline in all spheres of social life, including close friendships, intimate relationships, trust, labor participation and community involvement. The continuing shift has been called the “friendship recession” or the “social recession” – and, although it will take years before this is clearly established, it was almost certainly worsened by the pandemic.
Having an intimate group of friends like that seems to be a rare thing for men these days. In fact, according to a recent American Survey report, men have fewer social ties overall than they used to, with only 27% of men in 2021 saying they had at least six close friends compared to 55% in 1990. This suggests men may be suffering a “friendship recession” that is likely affecting their health and happiness.
Curing the crisis of a friendship recession: Catholic News Herald by Dr. Christopher Kaczor (August 2022)
If we better understand what friendship is, then we might better understand how to build new and better friendships. Aristotle provides us with some resources for thinking about friendship. Indeed, when I was a freshman in college, it was Aristotle’s teaching on friendship that first awoke in me an interest in philosophy.
Men have fewer friends than ever, and it’s harming their health: Vox by Aubrey Hirsch (August, 2022)
Young men are living with their parents longer and those that do often forgo making other friendships and bonds outside of the home. Changes in the workplace might be contributing as well. Americans are working longer hours, switching jobs more often and going to the office less than we were in the past. But we also tend to socialize young boys in particular to hide their vulnerabilities and value toughness and stoicism over emotional sensitivity and connection.
Men suffer ‘friendship recession’ as 15% are without a single close pal: New York Post by Adriana Diaz (July 2021)
These staggering statistics of the friendship recession found in the American Perspectives Survey are being attributed to a multitude of cultural-trend changes in the past two decades, including a decline in religious involvement, lower marriage rates and changes in the workplace, that are creating a surge of disconnection.
Single men are especially affected by the “friendship recession.” According to the survey, 20% of men who are not in a romantic relationship reported not having any close friends.
The bad news doesn’t end there. Not only do men have smaller friendship circles, they report being less emotionally connected to the friends they do have. Both men and women benefit from developing strong emotional bonds with their friends, but women are more successful in establishing these types of relationships. The study finds that women report far higher rates of emotional engagement with and support from their friends. This type of intimacy matters. Americans who receive regular emotional support from their friends are far less likely to report feeling anxious or alone than those who do not, and this is true independent of how many friends they have.
American men suffer ‘friendship recession’ with 15% not having ONE close friend – and the number with at least six plummeting from 55% to just 27%: Daily Mail by Rory Tingle (July 2021)
American men are experiencing a friendship recession, with nearly one in six not having one close friend, a new poll has found.