Powerful article by Anton Cebalo, summing up 20 years of research on the "social recession" in America:
One of the most discussed topics online recently has been friendships and loneliness. Ever since the infamous chart showing more people are not having sex than ever before first made the rounds, there’s been increased interest in the social state of things. Polling has demonstrated a marked decline in all spheres of social life, including close friends, intimate relationships, trust, labor participation, and community involvement. The trend looks to have worsened since the pandemic, although it will take some years before this is clearly established.
The decline comes alongside a documented rise in mental illness, diseases of despair, and poor health more generally. In August 2022, the CDC announced that U.S. life expectancy has fallen further and is now where it was in 1996. Contrast this to Western Europe, where it has largely rebounded to pre-pandemic numbers. Still, even before the pandemic, the years 2015-2017 saw the longest sustained decline in U.S. life expectancy since 1915-18.
Some numbers: church membership is down to below 50% for the first time ever, having fallen from 70% to 47% in twenty years. About 12% of Americans say they have no close friends; in one poll 22% of millennials reported having no friends at all. No good polling yet on Gen Z, but as Cebalo says anyone who has spent time on the internet knows their numbers will be at least as bad. The rate of major depression in people 16 to 25 has gone up 50% in just 12 years. Among people 18 to 30, 17% of women and 30% of men say they have had no sex since turning 18.
Cebalo thinks all of this is tied to a collapse of trust, with the amount of trust Americans report having in institutions and each other declining dramatically. As to what this will men going forward,
We have no clear, comparative basis on which to judge what will emerge from the growing number of people who feel lost, lonely or invisible. The closest comparison comes from the early 20th century when, for the first time, millions of provincial people moved to major cities to pursue their dreams. Many uprooted themselves then only to be poor and unfulfilled, who were later easily excited into a mania over mass politics and culture.