Lynne Cope Hummell

The average American has 16 friends.

The average American hasn’t made a new friend in five years.

A recent study released by the online invitation company Evite, conducted by OnePoll, a market research company, examined the social dynamics of 2,000 American adults. If the reported results, including the above, are accurate, they are depressing.

Does this make you as sad as it makes me? Maybe this is what’s wrong with America!

The first statistic I heard from this study was in a report on NPR, which started with the part about no new friends in five years. I found the statement so incredulous that I thought I must have heard it wrong.

Five years without a new friend? I made a new friend just five weeks ago! And I don’t think I’m an anomaly.

How long has it been since you met your newest friend? Last week? A couple of months ago? New Year’s Eve?

How can half of American adults be so lacking in friendly relationships? The study found that many respondents said it was because of the time required for family obligations, or they don’t have hobbies that would connect them with others, or they are shy.

Well, OK, I’m not at all shy. But I do have family obligations that require time – as does probably every person reading this.

Granted, I’m not currently caring for a child or an aging parent 24/7. Those who are doing so can be exempt from scrutiny. They have incredibly full plates.

Some hobbies involve others, and some are solitary, so I’m not sure why 28% of anyone would give that as a reason to not have more friends.

Maybe I find these results so odd and improbable because of the kind of community we enjoy here in the Lowcountry. For instance, when you go to the Farmers Market on Thursday afternoon, don’t you see at least a couple of friends?

Or Mayfest! How many friends did you go with or run into?

The Christmas Parade? A Town Council meeting? The grocery store, or your child’s baseball game, or church?

Does the average Lowcountry resident have just 16 friends? Depending on one’s definition of “friend,” I think that number would be in the hundreds. And I don’t mean social media friends.

The survey reports that the average American has three lifelong friends, five people they enjoy hanging out with, and eight people they like but with whom they don’t spend much time together.

This sounds severely under-reported to me.

Over the July 4 weekend, my husband and I met up with a total of about 20 friends on four separate occasions. One was someone I’ve known my entire life. It was an amazing weekend, and I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude to just “be” in those moments.

To not have friends is not healthy. Two other articles in this issue mention the value of friends as strong contributors to our physical and mental well-being.

One quotes a study of 700,000 seniors. Now there’s a sample of Americans! An overwhelming majority report that friendly relationships with non-family members are “the most important” in their lives.

I propose that we do our own poll. I’d love for 2,000 readers to respond. I’ll post it on our Bluffton Sun Facebook page, and let’s see what happens.

Here’s are some potential questions:

What is your age range (by decade: 20-29, 30-39, etc.)?

How many friends do you have?

How long has the longest friendship lasted?

When was the last time you made a new friend?

I think we in the Lowcountry could turn that other survey on its ear.