How Many Friends Do Most People Have
How Many Friends Do Most People Have? According to a 2004 Gallup Poll, the average American has 9-10 close friends, or just slightly more than one friend for every member of Congress. That’s not too shabby! But how many people do you know who actually have fewer than 10? The same survey found that only 4 percent had 0-1 close friends. And according to this year’s Pew Research study, only 3 percent of respondents said they didn’t have any friends at all. So let’s say there are three types of people in this world – those who don’t have any friends and those who have exactly zero, as well as those with anywhere from 11 down to 5 close friends. How does that distribution look like? Let’s take a look.
The numbers in the chart below represent the percentage of people who fit into each category. A green circle represents someone who doesn’t have any friends, while yellow circles indicate people who have between 1 and 2 close friends, and red indicates those who have 4+ close friends. (Note: These figures were pulled from Gallup’s data.)
So what would we call these “close” friends? They’re probably acquaintances rather than real friendships, since most people don’t want to hang out with their coworkers. According to research conducted by sociologist Katherine Conger, “Friends tend to be individuals whom we spend time with because of shared attitudes and beliefs.” In other words, if you hang around your co-workers, it’s because you share similar interests, not necessarily because you see them as friends. In fact, when researchers surveyed college students about their friendship groups, they determined that the majority of subjects classified their closest buddies as family members, not friends.
This is also why I think it’s important to distinguish between “friends” and “acquaintances,” even though both may occasionally go on dates together. Acquaintances typically hang out with others who also share their hobbies and interests; whereas friends might also include acquaintances but often also includes people who are closer to us emotionally.
One interesting aspect of this finding is that people with a higher number of friends report being happier. This seems counter-intuitive, especially given how few people have no friends in the first place. One explanation offered by psychologists is that having few friends is a sign of social isolation, which is associated with depression. However, a 2008 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggested that loneliness isn’t always such a bad thing: lonely people may actually live longer.
So how did we come up with these categories? First, we took the total population and sorted them based on the number of close friends they reported having. We used Gallup’s definition of “Close Friend”: Someone with whom we can talk openly and frankly about almost anything without fear of criticism or judgment. Next, we assigned each person a color depending on their group. Green was defined as someone who doesn’t have any friends, Yellow indicated a person who has between 1 and 2 close friends, and Red was reserved for anyone who had four or more close friends. Finally, we converted percentages to actual numbers using simple division. Here’s where it gets fun:
Now, here’s the kicker: the graph above shows that the vast majority of people fall into the “green” category, meaning they don’t have any close friends. If you’ve ever been in this situation, then you know how hard it can be to make new ones. Maybe you’ll try online dating, join an interest group, volunteer somewhere, or get involved in politics. You could also start going to parties and events. It’s possible that hanging out with people outside your usual sphere will help you meet new, cool people.
If you’ve never tried it before, you should give some kind of event a shot. There are plenty of options available, whether you’re looking to host an event yourself or simply attend one hosted by another individual. For example, MeetUp.com is a great resource for local gatherings. Or you could check out large public events like festivals or music concerts. Just remember that you should be prepared to meet some people who aren’t interested in getting to know you. After all, most people are pretty shy and awkward in front of strangers. If you can accept this reality, however, you may find that you enjoy meeting people and making connections.
Have you ever met someone through a party or event? Did you end up liking them? Share your experiences in the comments section below!
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