We all need friends. In fact, when it comes to staying healthy, friendships are right up there with quitting smoking. Research even shows that having friends is good for your heart health, too. In fact, if you’re socially isolated, the chances of dying from heart disease double! So, it’s great if you have lots of friends throughout your life.
But what happens when you hit 30, and you start to have a difficult time finding friends? Let’s find out if making friends is actually harder as you grow older and what you can do about it.
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Fact or fiction: It’s harder to make friends when you’re older
It’s a common idea that it’s harder to make friends after hitting 30. And research backs this up. In a meta-analysis, comprising 277 studies which included nearly 200,000 participants, researchers found that in our 20’s, the amount of close friends reaches its peak.
After this stage, the amount of friendships you have steadily declines.
You may have experienced this phenomenon in your own life, and with you could return to your college days. But why is it so much harder to make friends now that you’re older? It can be easy to think that there’s something wrong with you.
But the truth is, it’s completely normal to make fewer friends as you get older. Here’s why.
The three ingredients for close friendships
Sociologists have identified three conditions that are crucial for forming close friendships. They are “proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and being able to let your guard down and confide in other people. As you get older, it’s harder to meet these three conditions.
The three ingredients for close friendships: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and being able to let your guard down and confide in other people.
When you’re in college, it’s easy to meet the first condition, proximity. That’s because you share similar lifestyles, class schedules and social events with your classmates.
But proximity is harder to obtain when you grow older. You have your own life, maybe even a house, a full-time job and possibly a partner and family. It’s basically impossible to be as close to your friends as you once were.
When it comes to repeated and unplanned interactions, it also becomes more difficult once you hit 30. Life changes a lot, and adult responsibilities take precedence over impromptu cocktails after work. There are kids, dinner, dogs and sleep to think about.
And since you don’t share as much time with other people, it’s harder to become close to new acquaintances and confide in them.
All in all, it’s not a myth that it’s difficult to build close friendships in your 30’s. It’s the truth for a lot of people. But does that mean you’ll never find friendships again? Luckily, the answer is no.
Once you reach your 30’s, your friendships will change, but this doesn’t make them bad. And if you can accept that your friendships will be a little different than they used to be, you’ll have an easier time adjusting.
As an adult, you can make new friends, but as one New York Times writer said, they will be situational friends, or K.O.F (kind-of-friends). But this isn’t a bad thing.
In fact, this study found that every seven years, we actually replace nearly half of our friends. But do we make a conscious decision to cut ties with everyone?
Not necessarily. It’s just based on the changes occurring in your life, like marriage, kids, career, relocation, and even shifting goals and values.
And it’s actually nice to know that friends are situational because there’s less pressure to find your one, true friend.
Research shows that you can bond with just about anybody, so try to be open to people who are already in your life. As we know, proximity is important for close friendships. And you see your coworkers on a daily basis. So, why not try to develop a friendship – even a situational friendship – with them?
Specific friends for specific needs
When you were younger, you probably had a BFF who was your be-all-end-all friend. But that may be hard to come in your 30’s. So, it’s a good idea to change your concept of friendship. Are you open to having specific friends for specific needs?
Some friends will fill your “going-out” need. Other’s will be your closet confidants. You can be friends with our parents at your child’s school to help you navigate parenting and educational issues, too.
Adults have fewer but closer friends
Psychology professor, Laura L. Carstensen, has seen that when adults enter midlife, they may spend time with fewer people, but they tend to be closer to the friends they’ve already have.
And when it comes to adult friendships, this is the silver lining.
You may not have lots of close friends, and the few that you do have may ebb and flow depending on your life situation. But the friendships you do have are probably genuine. Who has time to waste on fake friends anymore?
This is refreshing in an era where we’re pressured to have lots of Instagram and Twitter followers, and a long list of Facebook “friends”. In real life, it’s perfectly okay to have fewer, but closer friends. And as it turns out, that’s exactly what happens when you hit 30.
How to Make Friends When You’re in your 30’s and 40’s
Even though it’s not easy to make new friendships as you grow older, it’s also not impossible. So, here are a few tips to help you navigate friend-making as an adult:
- Find people who do what you do
- Look for good company, even if you’re not going to become BFF’s
- Join clubs, gyms, and local volunteer centers to meet like-minded people
- Walk your dog – your pets can be an easy conversation starter.
- Make opportunities, especially since they aren’t going to always pop up spontaneously. Is there someone you want to get to know better? Go out on a limb and invite them for coffee.
- Don’t ask boring questions. Instead, be engaged and invested in what other people say.
- Try Meetup. It’s an app that helps you find new friends at local meet-ups. Events include the movies, cafes and bars, book clubs, board games and even social parties.
Age does have an impact on the type of friendships we make and how many friends we have. But don’t let your age deter you from cultivating close friendships and seeking new ones!