Richard Reeves – The Friendship Recession Amongst Men

Why is friendship so important? How many friends do you need in life? Why is it hard for men to maintain friendships? Richard Reeves discusses the importance of friendships and why there is a risk of “friendship recession.”

Richard V. Reeves is a writer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, where he directs the Future of the Middle-Class Initiative and co-directs the Center on Children and Families. Publications he writes for include The Guardian, the New York Times, The Atlantic, National Affairs, and The Wall Street Journal.


According to a Harvard study, not having friends is as bad for your health as smoking. This study has established a link between social isolation and blood clots, contributing to heart attacks and Stroke.

Even with these damning statistics, people, especially men, still find it hard to make friends and keep them. Worse, loneliness is stigmatized by society, making it harder for people to admit loneliness.

“People, I think, are a bit reluctant to admit sometimes to not having friends. Loneliness is in some ways quite a stigmatized condition, and so actually getting people to admit to loneliness is something that social scientists really struggle with.”

This begs the question, is the world facing a friendship recession?

The friendship recession

An American Enterprise Institute scholar, Daniel Cox, used this word to describe the rise in the number of individuals with no friends or fewer people to lean on.

The United States is going through a friendship recession, and men are the hardest hit by it. In fact, according to AEI’s Survey Center on American Life and Gallup, the number of men with at least five close friends has declined since 1990.

While it is easy for women to make and retain friendships, it is harder for men to create and maintain genuine friendships beyond casual interactions. At least one in every five men say they have no close friends.


The most common reasons men find it hard to forge deep, lasting friendships include the following:

  • Fear of vulnerability
  • Societal expectations
  • Toxic masculinity
  • Mental health trauma
  • Prioritizing a career over a social life
  • Moving far from home or to new cities

“As society changes in all kinds of ways, technologically, economically, I think it’s important that we pay attention to what is very often an underappreciated human relationship- which is the friendship.”

“There are a few downsides to being without friends. One is lack of access to opportunities. It turns out that many people get a lot of jobs and opportunities and chances to go and do things through their friends- so friends do act as a communications information channel. But there are some quite profound effects on health, too: Mental health, and even physical health.” 

Having friendships is an important aspect of everyday life. A group of trusted friends is a support system. With them, one will always have a shoulder to lean on in hard times and people to celebrate life’s joys and successes with.

“Friendships come in all shapes and sizes, and are also formed in very different ways and in very different places.”

If you are a man looking to make new friends, there are different ways to meet new people or reconnect with old ones. These include:

  • Reconnecting with childhood friends
  • Taking up hobbies that make it easy for you to meet people with similar interests.
  • Making friends in your place of work or residence.
  • Joining online communities for likeminded people

“The fourth is online friendships. Those are friendships that are formed through a screen or over the internet in one kind or another, without necessarily ever physically meeting that person.”

Technological advancements have made the world an online global community. If you are not able to make friends in the old conventional ways, you can join online communities like, where you can meet fellow men looking to make meaningful friendships and camaraderie.

“Most people would say that the ideal number of close friends to have is somewhere around the three or four number.”  

If you are a man looking to make friends, meet new people, learn and grow, Mensgroup is an online men-only platform where men meet to learn and enjoy meaningful banter as they forge deep, lifelong friendships.