Most people are at peak social life at age 25. Photo: Greg Walters / Flickr
Most people are at peak social life at age 25. Photo: Greg Walters / Flickr

At 25, you may not have your life all figured out, but you are likely living through the most popular time in your life.

At least that’s according to a research paper published in the Royal Society of Open Science by scientists from Aalto University School of Science and Oxford University.

Researchers looked through anonymous phone records for 6.6 million people for a year and took note of how many friends each person kept in contact with. The study recorded a call between two people as a connection, and did not look at text messaging data. They found that the average number of contacts peaked at age 25 for most people, men and women, and that the number declines precipitously until age 45. Here’s the graph compiled by Washington Post:

Washington Post Wonk Blog
Washington Post Wonk Blog

The authors write that they conducted this study to explore how life history can influence “human sociality and the way social networks are structured.”

“Social promiscuity”

“Our results indicate that these aspects of human behaviour are strongly related to age and gender such that younger individuals have more contacts and, among them, males more than females,” the authors write. They note that males make more asserted efforts to socialize in the younger years, but drop off compared to females after late 30s.

“We suggest that this pattern can be attributed to the difference in reproductive investments that are made by the two sexes,” the authors write, referring to the popular evolutionary theory that males are more heavily invested in social and reproductive advantages at young age, while females stress these investments later on in life as their sexual appeals wear off.

Like exploring for a partner, finding a solid group of friends requires some “shopping around.” Regardless of gender, younger people are more likely than their older counterparts to explore new friendship with what the authors call “social promiscuity.”

“The greater social promiscuity of younger individuals could be interpreted as a phase of social sampling in which individuals explore the range of opportunities (both for friendships and for reproductive partners) available to them before finally settling down with those considered optimal or most valuable.”

Most people focus on quality over quantity

The authors caution that regardless of age, most people tend to focus on their inner circle of friends, which is quite small. “One important conclusion we can draw is that the average number of contacts is quite modest,” the authors write, “in most cases, people focus their (phone-based) social effort each month on around 15 people.”

This is a comforting insight in the social media age, where it’s widely thought that people crave public attention more than intimate connections with close friends and family.

“Thus, we provide some evidence that the use of mobile phone technology does not change our social world.”