Many Britons have fewer friends than before the coronavirus pandemic

Eir NolsoeData Journalist
February 25, 2021, 1:53 PM UTC

Most people feel COVID has made them closer with their partner and family, but a majority feel less connected with their friends

New YouGov research shows how a year with social restrictions has altered our relationships and friendships.

Three quarters of people who have a partner say they feel closer with them than before the pandemic (75%). However, one in eight (13%) report the opposite. This figure rises to over a fifth of 18-24 year olds in relationships (22%), the age group least likely to live with their significant other.

Many Britons who have family also say they’ve become closer during COVID (58%), while three in ten (31%) feel the distance has grown.

Friendships have suffered the most among the relationships in the survey. A majority of those with friends say they now feel less close (61%), including nearly a quarter (23%) who feel ‘much less close’. Only three in ten feel this year has brought them somewhat (21%) or much (9%) closer to their mates.

Two thirds of people aged 25 to 49 (67%) say their friendships have suffered – the highest of any group. Older people aged 65+ who have friends are the least likely to agree but even among this group half (51%) share this view.  

Half of Britons who have colleagues (51%) also feel less connected with them, while over a third report the opposite (36%).

The pandemic has cost friendships

The consequences of so many people feeling isolated from their chums are evident in the number of Britons who say they now have fewer friends than before COVID.

A fifth of Brits with close friends (18%) say this group has shrunk in the past year, while only 4% have added new buddies to their inner circle.

Three in ten people (28%) also say they’ve lost friends they’re less close with but enjoy seeing. Only one in twenty (5%) report an increase.

A quarter of 18-24 year olds with close friends (26%) say they have fewer now than before COVID. While this is the highest of any age group, they’re also the most likely to say they’ve gained new close friendships at 13%.

The same pattern is true for second-tier friends, with two in five 18-24 year olds (39%) saying they have fewer mates that they consider less close. Only 11% have made more such friends.

See the full results here