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Every Man Is an Island

Every Man Is an Island

They might have more friends than ever online but, on average, Americans have fewer friends to confide in than they did a decade ago. According to a study done by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, people reported having fewer intimate friends in 2004 than they had in 1985. When asked how many people they could confide in, the average number declined over that same time period from three to two. In 2004, almost a quarter of those surveyed said they had no one to discuss important matters with in the past six months; in 1985, only 7 percent were devoid of close confidantes. Why are we growing lonelier? According to Jacqueline Olds, a psychiatrist who teaches at Harvard Medical School and co-authored with her husband Dr. Richard Schwartz, The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-First Century, our loneliness is partly due to the American notion of independence that makes people not want to appear needy. They may feel alone, but they assume neighbors and friends are similarly busy and wouldn’t want to be bothered.

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