How many friends can we have at the same time?

Different studies try to put figures to the mystery of human friendship

They say that friends can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Whether this premise is true or not, science seems obsessed with making numbers with friendship, measuring its duration and intensity and seeking an explanation for its decreasing trend throughout life. These are some of the key numbers of friendship.

150 connections

The Dunbar number is the number of stable and meaningful relationships we can maintain at the same time. It was calculated by Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Oxford. The number is an approximation, and connections can vary between 100 and 250.

The pillars of friendship

A study suggests that middle-aged women only need to have three or more friends to raise their satisfaction levels, compared to men who have four or more..

Robin Dunbar pinpoints seven pillars of friendship. The chosen person is very similar to one, with a similar sense of humor. The others are speaking the same language or dialect, growing up in the same place, having a similar educational background and sharing the same hobbies and interests.

A series of interviews by journalist Julie Beck published in The Atlantic reveal the six forces that make up a great friendship. These are accumulation, initiative, ritual, imagination, attention not to miss out, and grace – the ability to forgive some things and move on.

When you meet someone, fall in love and get married, you are investing a lot of time and mental energy in a relationship. With the new favorite there would already be six in the circle of intimate friends and one would have to leave. Since this new relationship consumes the equivalent of the energy dedicated to two friends, two people are expelled.

200 hours is the amount of time it takes for a stranger to become a friend, according to research by psychologist David Dunbar.

15 cigarettes a day is the figure given by a well-known and much-cited 2010 meta-analysis led by Professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad of Brigham Young University in Utah that measured the health implications of friendlessness and isolation. Her conclusion is that loneliness has an impact on health equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

40 reasons were found by researchers to explain why it is so difficult to make friends in adulthood. The reasons were divided into three groups that the authors called: Distrust, Lack of Time, and Introversion. Women were more distrustful than men when it came to making new friends.

If you have a long life you will end up with one or two friends in your closest circle. American sociologist Mark S. Granovette recounted it in the essay The Strength of Weak Ties. Dunbar believes that the number of friends stabilizes around the age of 30.

Do virtual friends count?

If online friends have the same benefits for our health as friends, let’s call them analog. Study confirms importance of real friends in the feeling of well-being, but I cannot establish an equivalence with online connections. This work shows that singles who date are significantly happier than those who are not.

The “friends” who do not feel good

The authors concluded that people do not relax completely in the presence of “ambivalent” friends, and warn that they are not useful to help in a stressful situation.

Vázquez, Karelia. “¿Cuántos Amigos Podemos Tener a La Vez? ¿Cuántos Perdemos a Lo Largo de Los Años? Estos Son Los Números de La Amistad | Salud y Bienestar | EL PAÍS.” El País, 24 Sept. 2022,