the shape of leadership

Friendship and Loneliness in America

Many adults struggle with isolation, especially the poor

Twenty percent of adults in the U.S. meet their closest friends at church, according to a new Barna Group report that examines friendship and loneliness.

The most common ways people reported meeting their closest friends were through work (42 percent); other friends (35 percent); and the neighborhood (29 percent). Another 28 percent met their best friends growing up in school. Nearly a quarter formed strong bonds through their involvement in hobbies or activities; 20 percent met their best friends in college; and 8 percent made their closest connections through their children. Just 7 percent of respondents said they formed close friendships online.

Just 7 percent of Americans form their closest friendships online.

Overall, one-fifth of adults said they regularly or often feel lonely. And despite stereotypes of a lonely elderly population, the report indicates loneliness afflicts more young and middle-aged people than seniors. A quarter of Millennials and 24 percent of Gen-Xers said they were lonely, compared to 13 percent of Baby Boomers and 6 percent of Elders.

Men were more likely than women to say they were lonely (22 percent vs. 15 percent).

Low-income respondents were lonelier than those of higher socioeconomic rank (27 percent vs. 13 percent). On average, U.S. adults surveyed reported having five close friends. Economically disadvantaged individuals averaged half that number, with 20 percent claiming no close friends and 47 percent saying they had no one to call on in an emergency.

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