Friendship Recession

  • March 31, 2024
  • General

by John M Oldham MD, March, 2024


“Friendship Recession” is a term I hadn’t come across before.  Perhaps it’s a sign of our times.  Journalist Daniel Cox used the term in a piece focusing particularly on American men (  Drawing on data from the Survey Center on American Life, he reported that “the number of close friends Americans have has plummeted.”  It’s more pronounced for men than for women, and “single men fare the worst.”  Traditional notions of masculinity (stoic, tough, emotionally reserved) may play a role, but that’s changing in the younger generations.  Other forces are affecting both men and women, such as the diminishing role of the nuclear family as the stabilizing fulcrum of one’s life.  Plus the diminished centrality of organized religion as a social network.  Then add the isolating impact of the pandemic, robbing so many of us of, to use an old-fashioned metaphor, “water cooler” friendships in the workplace.  And then there’s the tsunami of the social media, where “friends” never meet except on a flat screen.

These social transitions are not all bad, of course, but they are transforming the way we live our lives.  For some, there’s a lot of excitement, color, and enrichment with such easy access to long-distance worlds.  For others, there’s loneliness and deprivation, with too few opportunities to shake hands and hug family and friends.  And then there are those of us who have solitary personality styles,  who may do pretty well in spite of the friendship recession in a changing world.