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> I'd hypothesis that the difficulty for most isn't making friends (meetups or shared interest groups like dancing, knitting, boardgames, kickboxing, group instrument lessons, etc), but in partnerships.

I've mostly seen the opposite. People whose social lives were centered around dating and meeting people through that, who then settled down, and now don't know how to make just "friend" friends.

Would the two have the same root cause? That's an interesting question - many claim that "tech" (in the abstract, or in the specific eg "facebook likes") are responsible for both, but I don't really buy it.

I don't know what historical rate information we have, but there have always been some loners. They have an easier-to-access platform today, does that skew our perception?

This matches my experience. People get married, settle down, and then the people they mainly interact with are coworkers and parents of their children. If those people don't have a reasonable sampling of people that match your interests, you don't have a lot of opportunities to make friends elsewhere. Meetups are often full of people trying to hook up, so not always useful for people already in a relationship. Plus, just having a single shared interest like knitting, dancing, or kickboxing isn't really a lot to hang a relationship on.

To the GP's point though, are the married people who have less friends the lonely ones? The article doesn't specify and from my own experience I'm much less lonely now with a significant other and less friends than I was when I was single and had many friends.

I suspect the lack of pair bonding and childbirth is driving the majority of the reported loneliness.

The question though is the overall social fabric less lonely? Maybe you benefit by being strongly coupled, but suddenly those "many friends" you had when you were single is utterly impacted by the shift. How many of those friends were only friends with each other through your connection and maybe aren't connected today? How many friends are lonelier without as much interaction with you?

To some extent modern culture has presented us this model of single-family homes and strongly coupled people against the world, and certainly it might minimize loneliness for the strong couples, but does it maximize loneliness for everyone else?

There's a lot to wonder if we've lost something in losing some of the classic "village model" of multiple families and individuals all in close proximity and relationship to each other in multi-family homes. Especially when you start to include individuals that for one reason or another don't "fit" into more traditional "Hollywood" couple relationship roles (asexual and/or aromantic folks don't always fit neatly into a strongly-bound couple role, as one obvious example to me; differently abled people have other challenges; etc).

Furthermore, a focus on strong coupling discounts the network effects of looser coupling. You may not feel hardly lonely at all always having your significant other around, but that may only be a "local maximum" state. Your maximal happiness may rely on both the reliability of a tight couple and a network of other friends filling other relationship needs. The long tail of strong couple problems from active therapy needs to cheating and divorce rates seems to suggest that it very much could be a local maximum "trap".

Anecdotally, I do feel like an individual that can't win in a game of strong coupling, and it does irk me that the suggestion is simply "be part of a couple". Hollywood and dating companies throw a lot of money at trying to tell people like me that this is the only solution, and it certainly seems like it's not a (workable) solution at all.

In a way a romantic relationship is easier since it's so explicit. The expectations are usually clearer. I'm in my 30's and find making new friends immensely difficult. Everyone is busy with their lives and already have settled into a groove.

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