People Hit "Peak Friendship" At Age 25, New Study Says, So All You 25 Year Olds, Congrats!
Making friends is a strange and mysterious process, and it seems we don't actually get any better at it as we age. In fact, according to science, people tend to hit "peak friendship" around age 25. After that, we tend to lose more friends and acquaintances than we gain. So if you're in your mid-20s, enjoy it while it lasts, and if you're already past that point... wellm at least you aren't alone.
In a new study, researchers at Oxford and Aalto universities looked at mobile phone data from 3.2 million mobile users in Europe. They found that, on average, people tend to focus most of their phone interactions with about 15 people, that people at the age of 25 talk on their phone more than any other age group, and that after the age of 25, people tend to slowly become more socially connected. In theory this indicates that after our mid-20s, our friend group starts to shrink.
And interestingly, this trend seems more pronounced in men than in women. Although men tend to have more social connections than women at the age of 25, they tend to lose friends faster as they get older, and by the age of 40, women tend to have a larger friend group.
Of course, since this study is only looking at cell phone data, it's also possible that people's friend groups don't get smaller so much as older people tend to use their phones less. However, it also fits with what we already know about social interactions as people age from other studies. Plus, although it seems intuitive that people in their 50s might communicate less on cell phones than people in their 20s, I'm not sure the same could be said of people in their 30s. And besides, if we assume these findings are only reflecting generational use of cell phones, you'd assume that teens would spend the most time talking and texting, not 25 year olds.
It also makes sense in many ways that 25 would represent the peak for a person's friend group size. At 25, you're likely still managing to keep in touch with most of your friends from school while simultaneously making new friends at your post-college jobs. But as time passes, people move away, or find new jobs, or have a falling out, or just drift apart, and it starts to get trickier to make new friends. Not that there aren't any ways to make friends as an adult — there are, of course. It's just a little more difficult.
So does this mean it's all downhill from 25? Not at all! After all, like I said, there are ways to make friends as an adult, even if they require a little more effort than it did when you were in college. And for some people, having more friends might not even be a good thing, depending on how much or little they actually need large groups of friends. Plus, for all we know, people start shedding friends because they start being more selective and focusing on more fulfilling connections, not because they are slowly beginning the long march to a lonely death.
Basically, don't worry if your friend group is shrinking a little. It's a normal thing that happens for most people. Just know that if you'd rather it didn't, you should be proactive about it, because science suggests it's a trend that won't reverse itself without a little effort on your part.
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