While staying in the US last month, I heard an interview on the radio with Lynn Smith-Lovin, a sociology professor at Duke. The interview was about a study she co-authored: Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades.

The study of 1,467 adults showed that one-fourth of all Americans report that they have nobody to talk to about personal matters. Another quarter reports they are just one person away from nobody. It seems that, in addition to bowling alone, more and more Americans now also have to cope alone with their personal problems.

My first thought was that this would especially be the case for the higher educated part of society since they in general spend more time on work and also tend to be more mobile. I was therefore surprised to hear that non-whites and people with less education tend to have smaller networks than white Americans and those with higher educational levels.

It also made me wonder about the ‘American-ness’ of this isolation problem. Is it a trend that can mainly be seen in the US, or would other countries and regions show similar outcomes (do welfare states lead to more social cohesion and less isolation or not; is this problem also apparent in developing countries)? Does anyone know about a comparative study on this issue?

The full article, published in the American Sociological Review, can be found here.

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