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How Many Friends Do You Really Need?

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An ongoing argument my husband and I have —  which has become more contentious during the pandemic — is about how many friends we should have.

We both have one or two close friends and siblings we like to spend time with. Plus, we are busy parenting two young boys who sap most of our energy. As a textbook introvert, this feels like plenty of friends to me. Excessive, even. But my husband is an extrovert who comes alive around other people. As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, I can feel him yearning for more.

He’s not alone. For years, friendship in America has been in decline, a trend that accelerated during the pandemic. Three decades ago, 3 percent of Americans told Gallup pollsters they had no close friends; in 2021, an online poll put it at 12 percent. About a year into the pandemic, 13 percent of women and 8 percent of men age 30 to 49 said they’d lost touch with most of their friends.

There are health implications to all of this. Friendship can be an important factor in well-being, while loneliness and social isolation — distinct but related conditions — can be associated with an increased risk for conditions like depression and anxiety or heart disease and stroke. An often-cited 2010 meta-analysis led by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University in Utah, concluded that loneliness is as harmful to physical health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

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Nathalie Lees

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Click the link below for the article:

https://www.nytimes.com

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