Have you hit your friendship peak?

Have you hit your friendship peak?

Making time for friends can be tough when you’re juggling a career and family responsibilities. In fact, the number of friends in our social circles plummets after our mid-20s and continues to decrease throughout the rest of our lives, a new study found.

Aalto University and Oxford University researchers analyzed 3.2 million European cell phone records. They found that the average 25-year-old woman contacts around 17.5 people per month, while men in this age group contacted 19 people.

However, by the time people reach their late 30s, their circle of friends shrunk. For example, the average 39-year-old woman talked to 15 people per month, while her male counterpart only contacted 12.

“The greater social promiscuity of younger individuals could be interpreted as a phase of social sampling,” according to the study. “Individuals explore the range of opportunities (both for friendships and for reproductive partners) available to them before finally settling down with those considered optimal or most valuable.”

After men and women hit their friendship peak, they start losing contact with people as relationships, children and careers start to put pressure on their time. In fact, the data showed that from ages 45 to 55, friendship levels out to between 12 and 15 people, with women still having more contacts than men.

“The difference between the sexes seems to be primarily owing to the more frequent interactions by the females with their adult children and the children’s spouses,” the researchers wrote in the study. They suggest that it is possible women may also interact with their own family members more than men do in order to keep track of children’s activities.

Dr. Maleeha Ahsan, a psychiatrist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., says quality is more important than quantity when it comes to friends.

“As life throws more responsibilities on our plates, it’s common for friendships to be put on the back burner. However, it’s important to surround yourself with people who meet your emotional and spiritual needs. Even though you may feel stretched for time, the investment that you make to friends who matter the most to you will be worth it,” says Ahsan.

Dr. Ahsan suggests the following tips to make new friends at any age:

  • Volunteer – meet people who are passionate about the same things as you and do something good for society at the same time.
  • Share your favorite hobby – join a craft club at the public library, a local garden club or take a photography class at the community college.
  • Connect with your faith community – join a committee or small group.

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One Comment

  1. A wonderful article. As a person who moved to a new country, I’ve found it very challenging to develop quality friendships. It has taken a lot of time, a lot of failures and acceptance that I will never find replacement for my childhood friends before I’ve made some quality friends.

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About the Author

Johnna Kelly
Johnna Kelly

Johnna Kelly, healthe news contributor, is a manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. She is a former newspaper reporter and spent nearly 10 years as a public relations professional working for state and county government. During her time as a communications staffer for the Illinois General Assembly, she was integral in drafting and passing legislation creating Andrea's Law, the nation's first murderer registry. In her spare time, she volunteers at a local homeless shelter, enjoys traveling, photography and watching the Chicago Bulls.