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.
Other differences include shifts in the way individuals select whom to trust. More Americans today confide exclusively in relatives, especially spouses, as opposed to associates from social organizations or work, who were cited much more often in the previous results. And yet people with higher levels of secondary education tend to confide more in acquaintances outside the family; Smith-Lovin attributes this phenomenon to the tendency of highly educated people to have larger discussion networks. She and her colleagues are now reinterviewing participants to try to better explain these and other apparent trends.