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.
But alarmingly, 15% of young men today report having no close friends, compared to 3% in the 1990s. The COVID pandemic has further tested friendship networks, with women being the most affected due to their friendships’ reliance on physical contact. Other factors likely have contributed to the decline in friendships in the 21st-century U.S., including geographical mobility, parenting demands, workism, and relationship breakdowns.
Reeves emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and nurturing friendships as they don’t form spontaneously. Admitting the desire for friends requires vulnerability and openness, which may be difficult for some individuals.