See Inside October/November 2006

Confiding in No One

More work hours, and moving, have limited the people in whom we trust.

Newly published analyses of a 2004 survey indicate that Americans’ social safety net is shrinking. On average, the 1,467 respondents listed only two people with whom they discuss important matters. In 1985 a similar mix of volunteers answering a comparable large survey reported an average of three confidants.

Also surprising: the most frequently reported number of confidants was zero, rather than three in 1985. Principal investigator Lynn Smith-Lovin, professor of sociology at Duke University, speculates that recent increases in time spent at work and frequent changes of residency could explain this striking change.

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