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Americans now lonelier than ever as number of friends declines

The United States is becoming a lonely place according to a new study on friends.

Americans now report they have the fewest close friends since the early 1990s. While most demographics are reporting the drop, men are seeing the biggest jump in isolation. Five times as many men, compared to women, say they have no close friends at all according to a study by the Survey Center on American Life.

The study involved interviews with 2,019 adults living in the U.S., and shows that only 59% of Americans, in general, report having a best friend today compared to 77% in 1990. And while 30 years ago 55% of men said they have at least six close friends, just 27% of men now report the same. Some 15% now say they have no close friends at all compared to 3% in 1990.

According to Daniel A. Cox, senior fellow in polling and public opinion and director of the Survey Center on American Life, just 10% of women reported having no close friends while overall they, too, have fewer friends than in the past.

For young adults and singles, the situation can play havoc with both physical and mental health. Cox says those groups rely on their friends for emotional and personal support.

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One bright spot is that young men are turning to their parents for support and as their friend circle shrinks.  Some 36% of young men say the first person they call for help is their parents.

Just 22% of young men say they turn to their friends when facing personal problems, down by half from 45% in 1990.

Among the forces highlighted as factors behind the shifting trend in friendships are Americans marrying later and being more geographically mobile.

Another bright spot is that studies also show American parents are spending twice as much time with their children than previous generations even as they work longer hours.

The study shows that some 53% of Americans say that the first person they talk to when they have a personal problem is their spouse or partner. For men, according to an earlier report in Harper’s Bazaar, it’s women who bear the burden of men’s lack of friendships.

“Men don’t usually put the effort into maintaining friendships once they’re married,” artist Lindsay Johnson told the publication. “The guys at work are the only people other than me that my husband even talks to, so when some of these men retire, they expect their wives to be their source of entertainment and even get jealous that they have a life.”

Dr. Geoffrey Greif, sociologist and author of Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships,explained to Healthline that men develop friendships by working or doing things together like watching sports and going to events. But  he added, “As we get older and take on more responsibilities at work and home, men typically have less time for these shared activities, which can be isolating.”

–Metro Voie and wire services