YouGov Friendship Study Part Five: How COVID-19 impacted Britons’ relations with their friends

Milan DinicResearch Manager
December 16, 2021, 10:16 AM GMT+0

A majority of Britons (56%) found their friendships changed in some way over the course of the pandemic, with one in five people (20%) having become more distant with close friends due to the coronavirus pandemic, the YouGov Friendship Study finds. For 7% they became closer to their friends during this time, while three in ten (29%) say it was a mix of becoming closer with some and more distant from others. For 38% of Britons, the pandemic had no impact on their relationships with close friends.

More men (23%) than women (17%) say their relationship with close friends has weakened due to the pandemic.

The older Britons are, the more likely they are to say that the pandemic had no impact on their close friendships: 50% of those aged 60 and above say this, compared to 13% of those aged 16-24.

Youngest Britons are correspondingly most likely to have experienced a change in their friendships: 11% say they’ve become closer with friends, twice as many (23%) say they’ve become more distant with friends, while half (47%) say they have experienced changes in both respects.

More introverts (25%) than extroverts (15%) say they became more distant from their friends over the course of the pandemic.

The YouGov Friendship Study also looked at whether and how the coronavirus pandemic changed the way Britons value their friendships. A third (35%) say they value their friendships more than before. The study finds that women (40%) are likelier than men (29%) to say this. This is most notable among younger British women, where nearly six in ten (59%) of those aged 16-24, and 43% of those aged 25-39 report this.

Just 4% note that they value their friendships less, while 54% say the pandemic had no impact on how much they value their friendships.

Four in ten Britons (40%) report losing contact with some of their friends since the coronavirus pandemic started in the UK. While 26% say they will seek to regain contact with these friends, 14% say they will not.

Britons under 40 are more likely to report losing touch with friends (46-59%) than those in the older generations (32-37%).

Those aged 16-24 (27%) are also more likely than older Britons to say they won’t seek to recontact lost friends.

Britons report having kept in touch with friends in different ways during the pandemic compared to before: 37% contacted friends more via social media or online, 36% used video calls more, 34% increased phone calls with friends, and 26% met for outside walks or activities more than before the pandemic. Just 4% say they increased letter writing to friends, and a fifth (21%) say they didn’t do any of the above more than before.

Britons aged 16-24 (53%) are twice as likely as those over 60 (27%) to have used video calls more as a means of keeping in touch with friends.

In the oldest population, which is seen as most vulnerable and which was strongly advised to avoid social interaction, 16% of men and 23% of women report meeting friends outdoors during lockdown.

See full results here 

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