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How many friends do Americans have? A survey crunched the numbers

Can your bestie be a health benefit?
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Can your bestie be a health benefit?

New research has delved into what friendship in the U.S. looks like, including just how many friends the average American has.

Who are they? Friends can be anyone from the folks in your Dungeons & Dragons group, the neighbors in your weekly potluck, or that chatty classmate you started hanging out with from your ceramics course.

What are the key findings?

  • According to Pew, 61% of adults in the U.S. say that having close friends is essential to living a fulfilling life — that's more than those who cited marriage, children or money.
  • A slim majority of adults surveyed (53%) said they have between one and four close friends. 38% said they had about five or more.

  • Of those friend-having adults, 72% expressed high levels of satisfaction with their friendships. Turns out comradery with your favorite people can leave you feeling content!
  • The survey respondents that reported larger groups of friends also felt more satisfied with the quality of their friendships compared to those with fewer close friends. Maybe those fellas from that famous '90s sitcom about friendship were onto something.
  • Generally, people talk most about work (shocker!), family and current events. But that frequency can also change depending on gender.
  • Women surveyed reported discussing family life, as well as mental and physical health, at higher rates than men. Men are more likely than women to talk to their close friends about sports and current events.

Want more on people? Listen to Consider This on how Los Angeles is using AI to combat homelessness.

What are people saying? There's a lot to be said about how we relate to each other in today's world, especially after the pandemic shook up our routines.

In May, the U.S. Surgeon General released an advisory on the epidemic of loneliness in the United States, which found that lacking connection can increase the risk for premature death to levels comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Here's what Surgeon General Vivek Murthy had to say on All Things Considered about it:

Here's author Lydia Denworth, who wrote a book on friendship, on how they positively impact us mentally and physically:

And Hanne Collins says forging little connections is a good place to start. Collins helped co-author a study on the importance of talking to strangers in your everyday life, a factor titled "relational diversity":

So, what now?

  • Don't know where to start with making friends? Life Kit's got you covered.
  • You read my whole article, which by journalist terms, automatically makes us friends now. Love you, bestie!

Learn more:

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Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.