Americans more socially isolated than ever

Started by Johnny, Jun 24, 2006, 04:04 PM

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans are more socially isolated than they were 20 years ago, separated by work, commuting and the single life, researchers reported on Friday.

Nearly a quarter of people surveyed said they had "zero" close friends with whom to discuss personal matters. More than 50 percent named two or fewer confidants, most often immediate family members, the researchers said.

"This is a big social change, and it indicates something that's not good for our society," said Duke University Professor Lynn Smith-Lovin, lead author on the study to be published in the American Sociological Review.

Smith-Lovin's group used data from a national survey of 1,500 American adults that has been ongoing since 1972.

She said it indicated people had a surprising drop in the number of close friends since 1985. At that time, Americans most commonly said they had three close friends whom they had known for a long time, saw often, and with whom they shared a number of interests.

They were almost as likely to name four or five friends, and the relationships often sprang from their neighborhoods or communities.

Ties to a close network of friends create a social safety net that is good for society, and for the individual. Research has linked social support and civic participation to a longer life, Smith-Lovin said.

People were not asked why they had fewer intimate ties, but Smith-Lovin said that part of the cause could be that
Americans are working more, marrying later, having fewer children, and commuting longer distances.


Americans are working more, marrying later, having fewer children, and commuting longer distances.

Wow the grasp of the obvious these experts have never ceases to amaze me. There was a more in depth review of the data over on I'll try to find it.
Openly Straight.


Ok so it's not an objective review, rather it's a blogger named Jason Barnes. I think he's right-on though:

But technology isn't the only thing leading to isolation. I think feminism has helped too. Now before I get bombarded with nasty e-mails and comments, let me explain. I'm not some trogolydyte who believes a woman's place is barefoot and in the kitchen, and only barefoot and in the kitchen. A woman's place is wherever she chooses it to be - so long as she is in that place because she lives up to the same standards that men in the same position do (for example: firefighters, the military, police officers, construction workers, etc.). Heck, I was a latch-key kid myself. And I think I turned out alright.

I do, however, have a problem with radical feminists, the ones who suggest that stay-at-home mom is an unworthy title. Take Linda Hirshman's recent condescension: "the tasks of housekeeping and child rearing (are) not worthy of the full time and talents of intelligent and educated human beings." So much for, "I believe the children are the future."

Hirshman's ideas, thankfully, has not been adopted by society at-large. But they have seeped the groundwater. Though the average American work week is slightly shorter today than it was in 1960, women are working more than ever. This article from the Department of Labor in 2000 reveals women are working more and men less. In fact, since 1967, the percentage of working women has increased by nearly 50 percent, while the percentage of working men has decreased by approximately 6 percent. Women, the study says, continue to leave work periodically to bear or raise children. But they are now likely to return to the workforce before their children reach elementary school. Not surprisingly, this is particularly true of single mothers.

Ideas have consequences. Hirshman's idea that full-time motherhood is degrading leads to less family time, as a two-working parent family has to spend more time taking care of life's endless chores at the end of the day. If one parent is working and one staying home - and frankly, it doesn't matter so much whether it's the husband or wife staying at home - both parents have more quality time to spend with their children; playing games, instilling values, preparing them for the real world, you know, being parents. Of course, my theory could be tested as well. We'd need to compare the relative isolation of children who were raised in two-working parent households to those raised by a stay-at-home mom or stay-at-home dad. Maybe such a survey already exists, if a reader knows of it, please let me know.

Another potential cause of isolation that was avoided by the WaPo is the disintegration of marriage as a one-time commitment, which is both a result of and a cause of no-fault divorce. For a full discussion, see I don't need a study to back the assertion that married people are less likely to feel isolated than single folks. In most cases, the married person has at least one other they can confide in. It would be interesting to see what percentage of lonely souls are single. I'm betting it's high.
Openly Straight.


Not to mention social etiquette disappearing. No one wants to be a nice guy or gal anymore since they "finish last." Less respect for elders, etc.

If you go to a place like S. Korea where the people are extremely social, you'll notice they're also very nice and mannerly.


Another cause is the availability and affordability of air conditioning. People don't spend their summer evenings outdoors anymore.


Do not forget transportation and the highly mobile job market.  I have worked in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia.  It is difficult to maintain friends and family ties when we are moving around so much.

My ex gf lived in Virginia, Denver, Sacramento, and now Florida.

We have a very efficient and productive economy - but at what cost?
 woman needs a man like a fish needs water

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