How Friendships Change Over Time

If you are over the age of 25, we have a question for you.

When was the last time you made a new friend?

If you are struggling to think of the answer, you are not alone. According to a recent study by scientists from Aalto University in Finland and the University of Oxford in England, who analyzed the cell-phone data of over 3 million users to determine length and variety of social interactions, people start rapidly losing friends after the age of 25.

Why does this happen?

Mostly, it’s because of life. Whereas, before the age of 25, people tend to have a lot of time and energy to put into social relationships, that time diminishes quickly once marriages, kids, and long-term jobs come into the mix. Even those who don’t choose marriage or a family will find their friendships disappearing because of the coupling of others.

Perhaps because of the reality of this situation, expectations of the friendships that we do maintain seem to change over time. According to William Rawlins, at the Stocker Professor of Interpersonal Communication at Ohio University, people tend to have three main expectations of friendships:

  • Someone to talk to
  • Someone to depend on
  • Someone to enjoy

Despite the consistency of these three expectations across the lifespan, there is considerable variation among what people of different ages want and need from friends. Let’s break it down and take a look at what each age group expects out of their cohorts:


Babies don’t really want anything from other babies. More likely it’s the caregivers who are craving friendship here, so if they get along, it’s all good.

Small Children

Small children want someone to play with, preferably someone who is good at sharing their toys. Friendship at this stage consists mostly of playing games and having fun together. Bonus if snacks are involved.


Pre-teens and adolescents start to share more private information with one another, so friendships start to get a little deeper. This is also the stage where children start to question their own identity more, so friends can help by being supportive of whomever they are becoming. This is especially important, since teens reportedly spend up to 9 hours a day consuming media, including social media which may impact those relationships!

Young Adults

Young adults tend to be very invested in their friendships. Whether at college, which is a wonderfully social environment, or at first jobs, people in this age group put a high priority on spending time with their friends.

Older Adults

As we mentioned, older adults often get caught up with life’s other priorities, pushing friendships to the backseat. These folks also expect less from their friends, since they know what it’s like to try to return a phone call with 3 kids screaming in the background.

Golden Age Adults

So much of life is cyclical, and friendships are no exception. As children grow up, and older adults find themselves with more time, friendships become more of a priority again. So don’t worry if you are losing friends now, there’s still time to live like the “Golden Girls,” in the future!

If you would like to talk more about making friends, or social interactions in general, contact us. We are here to help!