Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Social isolation

A new research paper (full PDF here) has uncovered a huge fall-off in social connections in the last twenty years. This is unfortunately US-only so I don't know how well it maps onto the other countries that we live in. The question asked in 1985 and 2004 was:

From time to time, most people discuss important matters with other people. Looking back over the last six months—who are the people with whom you discussed matters important to you? Just tell me their first names or initials

They then counted the number of confidantes, and investigated the relationships (people confide in their mother say, or their wife).

In 1985 the most common number was 3. In 2006 the most common number was none, with about a quarter giving that answer. Nearly three-quarters of people in 1985 reported they had at least one friend in whom they could confide, only half in 2004. Other findings

- there has been a sharper falling off in non-family ties
- Young (ages 18—39), white, educated (high school degree or more) men seem to have lost more confidantes than other groups

It may be that the meaning of words like 'discuss' and 'important' have changed greatly in twenty years. It may be that people are choosing to have more but more casual or distanced relationships (like ours on livejournal). I think it more likely that this is a trend due to - well you know what I always bang on about - the insanity of using the market as a paradigm for everything.

More at Crooked timber here, Metafilter here.

My question is - do you feel our culture is becoming more isolating? Do you have people you can confide in - family or not? Do you feel socially embedded?

For me, having my first baby plunged me into social isolation, and I gradually emerged from that, it was a shock, but I now feel my social links are more authentic and stronger than they were when I was younger. In addition I find the open more casual network of livejournal to be very pleasant and enjoyable, and it can spill over into a genuine social support network, even from thousands of miles way.
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