The Scientific Reason It’s So Hard To Make Friends In Adulthood (& What To Do About It)

The surgeon general warned that America has been in the midst of an epidemic of loneliness for years, and the forced physical separation from the pandemic certainly hasn’t helped us stay in touch. Surveys show that many Americans have lost friends thanks to two years of closures and restrictions, older Americans are more likely to have lost contact with their friends.

Some see this as a positive change, a question of reducing our social lives to fewer but stronger bonds. But for many people, the pandemic has simply been lonely. If you’ve reached or past middle age, what are your chances of re-growing your circle of friends on the other side of the latest wave of omicron madness?

The bad news …

I’ll tell you the bad news first. You are not just crazy. If you feel like it’s a lot harder to make friends as an adult than it was when you were younger, then you’re on to something. The difficulty isn’t that you’re not cool or goofy. It’s because the essentials of friendship are harder to find when you’re older.

“Sociologists have sort of identified the ingredients that need to be in place for us to be able to make friends organically, and this is an unplanned ongoing interaction and shared vulnerability,” the psychologist from the University of Maryland. Marisa Franco told Boston’s NPR news station WBUR. “As we become adults, we have fewer and fewer environments where these ingredients are in play.”

Adults with jobs, kids, and a host of other responsibilities simply have less time available to make friends. And Studies show making an occasional friend takes an average of 50 hours, while intimate friendships take 200 hours.

… and the good one.

That number may seem depressing to adults who wish they had more friends in their life – after all, finding two hours off can seem difficult for busy professionals, no matter 200 – but Franco insists that while doing so friends later in life it doesn’t. It doesn’t happen organically like when you were in school, it’s far from impossible.

The key, she tells WBUR, is to not rely on chance and organize regularly scheduled group activities like a book club, a rotating potluck or a bi-weekly hike on Saturdays. (Strangely, it’s scientifically proven that singing together is a particularly effective way to cement friendships, so maybe look for a local choir if you’re a musician.)

Not only does this pass the limited time to find time in their schedules for friends, but it also transforms friendship from an individual bond to a group effort, making it easier to maintain in the face of inevitable stress. of adulthood.

“Researchers also find that when we develop groups, our friendships are more lasting than with individuals. Because there are multiple points of contact now, aren’t there? Someone else in the group could reach out to all of us, and then we all keep in touch, ”Franco explains.

It’s also essential to overcome your initial shyness and ask for contact details from new people. It may make you uncomfortable or vulnerable, but Franco reassures those who are reluctant that these conversations will likely turn out much better than you fear. “We all have this tendency to think that we are more likely to be rejected than we really are,” she says.

Why you should bother

All of this information is useful for anyone feeling isolated after a few years of Covid chaos. But friendships are not only a good plus, the icing on the cake of a successful professional and family life. Friends are a powerful mood and stress booster (while loneliness can be as bad for your body as smoking a pack a day). Friends also help us stay resilient, open-minded, and actually smarter as we get older.

So don’t hesitate to make new friends to replace the ones you’ve lost over the past two years. It won’t be effortless like when you were seven (or 17). But with a little planning and courage, more than you can get. Your mental and physical health will benefit.

The opinions expressed here by the columnists of are theirs and not those of

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