New research sheds light on what prevents adults from making friends.
Posted Mar 28, 2021 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader
- Introversion, fear of rejection, pragmatic reasons (like a health problem), low trust, lack of time, and being too picky may make building new friendships difficult.
- One study found that the most important factors were “low trust,” followed by “lack of time” and “introversion.”
- Older people were more likely to report that lack of time and pragmatic reasons prevented them from making friends.
In recent research published in Personality and Individual Differences, researchers conducted 30-minute semi-structured interviews on 20 participants in a university laboratory seeking to discover what makes adult friendships difficult to create. Once the interviews were complete and coded, an open-ended survey on the matter was conducted on 108 new participants to further probe and validate the responses given in the semi-structured interviews.
The following 40 reasons were revealed, structured into six broad categories:
- I am introverted
- I feel embarrassed when meeting new people
- I do not speak easily to people I do not know or have just met
- I am shy
- I expect others to take the first step
- I am not social
- I do not meet many new people, because I do not associate much with others
- I do not open up easily
- I do not feel comfortable for others to know things about me
Fear of rejection
- I fear rejection
- I think about what others might think of me and I get anxious
- I fear that others will judge me negatively because I do not have many friends
- I am worried that I will not be accepted
- I find it difficult to communicate with others
- I find it difficult to figure out what I need to do in order to start a friendship
- I am insecure
- I do not think I make a good first impression
- I have a disability that makes it difficult for me to socialize
- I have a health problem that prevents me from socializing
- I have psychological problems that prevent me from making friends
- I live in a country whose culture is different than my own, which makes it difficult for me to make friends
- I am in a tight-knit group of friends that prevents me from making new friends.
- I live in a place with few inhabitants and I do not meet new people
- I do not trust others easily
- I am cautious
- I am suspicious
- Lack of trust due to bad past experiences
- I feel that others approach me with a purpose other than friendship
- I am very selective with whom to make friendship
- It is difficult for me to find people who are really interested in friendship
Lack of time
- Lack of time
- I work long hours and have no time for friendships
- I devote all my time to my partner and have no time for friendships
- I do not feel like making new friendships
- My age: I feel I have grown old enough to start new friendships
- I do not easily give others the opportunity to become my friends
- I easily reject people as potential friends
- It is difficult for me to find people with who we have common interests
- I find it difficult to find people who match
A follow-up study conducted with 622 participants (with a mean age of 33.7 for women and 34.1 for men) revealed that among the 40 reasons, the most important factors in the prevention of making friends were “low trust,” followed by the “lack of time” and the “introversion,” further discovering that “low trust” was a primary driver for women in comparison to men. Older participants were more likely to find lack of time and pragmatic reasons preventing them from making friends, in line with evolutionary reasons.
Facebook image: fizkes/Shutterstock
About the Author
Mariana Bockarova, Ph.D., is a researcher at the University of Toronto.