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Is America suffering a ‘social recession’? | Anton Cebalo

Americans report having less sex, fewer friends and a loss of trust in each other and society. What’s going on?

Ever since a notorious chart showing that fewer people are having sex than ever before first made the rounds, there’s been increased interest in the state of America’s social health. Polling has demonstrated a marked decline in all spheres of social life, including close friendships, intimate relationships, trust, labor participation and community involvement. The continuing shift has been called the “friendship recession” or the “social recession” – and, although it will take years before this is clearly established, it was almost certainly worsened by the pandemic.

The decline comes alongside a documented rise in mental illness, diseases of despair and poor health more generally. In August 2022, the CDC announced that US life expectancy had fallen to where it was in 1996. Contrast this to western Europe, where life expectancy has largely rebounded to pre-pandemic numbers. Even before the pandemic, the years 2015-2017 saw the longest sustained decline in US life expectancy since 1915-18, when the US was grappling with the 1918 flu and the first world war.

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