Teenagers risk losing up to 40 per cent of their friends when leaving home to study at university, new research has found.
Professor Robin Dunbar of Oxford University has found that social circles rapidly decrease when young people no longer see their pals as much as they used to.
Professor Dunbar, the man behind the ‘Dunbar number’ theory which asserts that a person’s brain limits them to a maximum of 150 friends, studied 30 teenagers who moved away from home to start their studies or begin a career. It was found that women would speak to their friends on the phone on a regular basis to maintain relationships, whereas men tended to meet up in person.
“We looked at what happened to the original set of friendships – they deteriorate really rapidly over a matter of months. The churn was phenomenal,” Professor Dunbar recently said of his findings at American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Boston.
“What determined with original friendships whether they survived with girls was whether they made effort to talk more to each other on the phone….
“Guys tend not to have that relationship. They tend to have a group of four guys that they do stuff with. That is much more casual.”
He further noted that women have much more intense friendships in comparison to men, and when the friendships end it’s almost like a romantic break-up.
However, he also discovered that having too many acquaintances can make women feel more stressed, which can possibly impact fertility.
“Women’s infertility is heavily driven by social stresses. It’s the number of people bumping into you. It’s the commuter problem – they’re not attacking you in the underground, they’re just crowding you. It’s social stresses,” he explained. “There is a suggestion that your core friends – the shoulder to cry on friends – can bolster your fertility. A core of five best friends are crucial in buffering you against the stress of other people.”