Fascinating report on diminishing social ties in the US. Americans now report having only 2 close friends, on average, and 1 in 4 say they have no one to discuss important matters with.

[The study] found that men and women of every race, age and education level reported fewer intimate friends than the same survey turned up in 1985. Their remaining confidants were more likely to be members of their nuclear family than in 1985, according to the study, but intimacy within families was down, too.

Undoubtedly, the reasons behind the decline in social relations are multiform, but there’s an often overlooked one that I think is worth pointing out: suburban sprawl.

In the course of researching Sightline’s new book on the relationship between health and sprawl, I dove into the scientific literature on social capital, mental health, physical health, and sprawl. In my judgment, the body of evidence is not conclusive, but it is growing more robust all the time. There is increasing reason to think that low density sprawl is correlated with (and probably causes) a significant degree of social isolation and fragmentation. And that loneliness has measurable impacts not only on mental health, but on physical health too.

If you’re looking for a place to start digging in to the connections between sprawl and loneliness, I suggest this book (chapter 9), this shorter article (pdf; scroll down), or this even shorter primer with citations that I wrote (pdf).

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