New Survey: Meaningful Friendships on the Decline in America

In Trail Life USA Boys and Men are Building Unbreakable Bonds and Forging Friendships That Last a Lifetime

July 26, 2021

GREENVILLE, S.C.— The state of American friendship is in decline, according to survey results from the Survey Center on American Life. The study found that meaningful friendships have been declining for three decades, but have accelerated recently due to the pandemic and other factors. Especially hard hit were youth and adult men.

The survey found that 59% of Americans currently report having a best friend, compared to 77% in 1990. Men felt the drop in friendships most, seeing their circles of friends cut in half. According to the survey, in 1990, 55% of men reported they had at least six close friends, today the number has shrunk to just 27%. Even worse, the number of men who report they have no close friends is 5 times greater than 30 years ago—15% today vs. 3% in 1990.

“God made us for community, for locking arms and lifting each other up when we need it, and yet so many people are attempting to function without one of the basic elements of a fulfilling life—meaningful friendships,” said Mark Hancock, CEO of Trail Life USA ( “This report found that even our health is affected by friendship: lower blood pressure, less depression, fewer weight issues, even longer life. Comradery in the outdoors is literally breathing life into boys and men in Trail Life USA– life that will in turn influence others as they mature as men, grow as leaders, and have families.”

The survey reported that in 1990, 45% of young men would turn to friends for support. Now the number is 22%. The pandemic has affected friendships among women as well. The survey found that 59% of young women lost touch with some or most of their friends during the last year.

“These especially alarming numbers among young people give us a unique opportunity to reach this generation,” Hancock continued. “Young people are more inclined to turn to friends for emotional and personal support. This report highlights how important providing this sort of healthy connection is becoming.”

Trail Life has seen what can happen when boys from Kindergarten through 12th Grade are part of a church-based, Christ-centered, boy-focused mentoring adventure program. “Trail Life USA supplies the place, the programs, and the outdoor adventures to connect boys to other boys, to adult mentors, and to their God-given purpose to become godly men,” said Hancock. “This is our moment to show the kind of positive, meaningful impact that Trail Life Troops can make in boys’ lives and to inspire them to strengthen and maintain those friendships with fellow Troop members and mentors into their adult years.”

Trail Life has experienced a 70% increase in new members compared to the previous year, adding dozens of new Troops and expanding total membership to over 30,000. In just the last month, over 300 individuals have reached out for information on starting a Trail Life Troop.

Trail Life USA is the premier national character development organization for young men, producing godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens. Trail Life’s mission is to guide generations of courageous young men to honor God, lead with integrity, serve others, and experience outdoor adventure. Troops exist in all 50 states and are growing as Trail Life USA expands around the country. Get involved in a Troop near you, or Start a Troop in your community today.     

Since Trail Life USA launched on January 1, 2014, it has grown to over 30,000 members in over 850 Troops across the nation. The K-12 program centers on outdoor experiences that build a young man’s skills. A robust awards program motivates young men to grow on a personal level to become role models and leaders among their peers. Living the Trail Life USA is a journey established on timeless values derived from the Bible.  

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To interview Mark Hancock from Trail Life USA,, Jeff Tolson, 610.584.1096, ext. 108, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.