Monday 18 February 2019

When are we most popular? Study reveals 'peak' age when we have the most friendships

Taylor Swift and her 'squad': models Gigi Hadid, Karlie Kloss and Lily Aldridge. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
Taylor Swift and her 'squad': models Gigi Hadid, Karlie Kloss and Lily Aldridge. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Sasha Brady

There is a specific age when a person will be at their ‘most popular’, according to new research.

It seems we don't get any better at making friends as we age. In fact, our social networks shrink as we get older.

According to a new study, people tend to hit 'peak friendship' at 25.

After that, we tend to lose more friends and acquaintances than we gain.

But there's also an important difference between men and women, with men likely to make more contacts in their youth but lose them more rapidly as they age. And by the age of 40, women tend to have a larger friend group.

Researchers from Oxford and Aalto universities studied mobile phone data from 3.2million users in Europe for the study,

The cast of Friends
The cast of Friends

The team looked at the calling patterns (excluding text messages) between pairs of people of known age and gender in 2007.

They found that those aged 25 and under talked more to friends than any other age group, looking at who how often they called a person and the length of each call, with our social circles decreasing with age.

Older people spent more of their free time socialising with a small group of family or friends, the research added.

“Age and gender are two important factors that play crucial roles in the way organisms allocate their social effort,” researchers explain in the study published in Royal Society Open Science.

“Our results indicate that these aspects of human behaviour are strongly related to age and gender such that younger individuals have more contacts and, among them, males more than females.”

Overall, the researchers found that peak friendship would occur at around 25 years old.

Ant and Dec and Cat Deeley on SM:TV's Chums
Ant and Dec and Cat Deeley on SM:TV's Chums

They found social circles tend to decrease until the age of 45 when the number stabilises for about a decade.

After 55, there is again a steady decrease.

Dr Sarah Gomillion, a Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen, said the research “echoes other research on face-to-face social networks that suggests that our social networks shrink as we age”.

“The big life events that usually come with age, such as marriage and parenthood, lead people to invest more of their time socialising with just a few close family members and friends,” she explained on The Conversation.

“Later in life, retirement, health issues and the death of partners and friends can leave people socially isolated, although this can sometimes inspire older people to engage more with their community through volunteering and religious participation."

For some people, having fewer friends may even be a good thing. For all we know, people start shedding friends so that they can focus on fulfilling more intimate connections with a select few friends, instead of spreading themselves too thin.

So don't worry if your social circle is shrinking. It's a normal thing that happens to everyone.

If you'd rather it didn't, just be proactive. Maybe call up that friend you haven't spoken to in years.

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