The coronavirus lockdown could take a toll on the people’s friendships, scientists say.
According to evolutionary psychologist Professor Robin Dunbar, the lack of social contact between friends and colleagues could have some long-term effects.
“Friendships can deteriorate very quickly if you don’t invest in them – it probably only takes about three months,” he said.
In a paper published in the Royal Society journal, Professor Dunbar looked into the ways in which our social connections will be impacted by lockdown, using the social lives of non-human primates as an example.
The academic stated that, for both monkeys and humans, the quality of a relationship depends directly on the time invested in it and that extended periods of no contact could see friendships “fizzle out”.
“We have to see people surprisingly often to maintain a friendship,” Professor Dunbar explained.
“In lockdown, many people are forming new friendships with people on their street and in their community for the first time. So when we emerge from lockdown, some of our more marginal friendships might be replaced by some of these new ones.”
The scientist added that there are concerns the lockdown could have the greatest impact on the older generation and exacerbate loneliness.
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“When we’re older, we generally find it more difficult to make new friends,” said Professor Dunbar.
“And the biggest single factor affecting health, wellbeing, happiness – even the ability to survive surgery or illness – is the number of high-quality friendships you have.”
Dr Jenny Groarke from Queen’s University, Belfast, has been studying loneliness during the pandemic and agreed that many people will be experiencing a dissatisfaction with the quality of their friendships in recent months.
“People are using digital modes of communication to meet their social needs, but they’re less satisfied with the quality of this form relative to face-to-face contact,” she said.
“[This) lower satisfaction with the quality of digital social contact, we found, was associated with higher loneliness.”Photo Credit: Getty