Is your social circle shrinking?
Are you over the age of 25? If so, you may have noticed your social circle is shrinking.
A new study conducted by scientists at Aalto University in Finland and University of Oxford in England found that you begin losing friends in your early twenties.
The teams studied the overall activity of 3 million mobile phone users, taking into account frequency patterns, who they contacted and when. Social media contact—including Facebook friends—did not count.
Researchers found that before the age of 25, both men and women tend to be socially promiscuous, building friendships and creating contacts. After 25 though, the number of “friends” declines steadily until it plateaus at retirement age.
Interestingly, the researchers found the loss of friends happens more rapidly for women than men. A 25-year-old female contacts an average of 17.5 people per month, while a 25-year-old male contacts an average of 19.
These findings suggest that women begin to nurture relationships that are more meaningful to them—such as with a potential life partner or a best friend.
“By their mid-twenties, women in particular begin to focus their resources selectively on career, family or both, and as a natural part of that process, friendships generally align with those priorities,” says Jessica Dube, an advanced practice nurse at Advocate Dreyer Psychiatry. “Friendships become more about quality over quantity, often prioritizing support over entertainment.”
Around the age of 39, though, a man’s social circle begins to shrink more quickly than his female counterpart. At this age, men contact an average of 12 people per month, while women contact an average of 15.
The researchers suggest this switch may occur because women want to stay close with people that are invested in their children, such as mothers, sisters, mothers-in-law and close friends. From an evolutionary perspective, having a network at this age was believed to help women raise their children. Men, on the other hand, tend to be more focused on their status and achievements after they have a family.
“Traditionally, men cultivate their career and work relationships as first priorities. When retirement begins, the work relationships decline and social circles tend to shrink to lifelong friendships and local contacts, such as neighbors or community organizations,” says Dube.
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