A lot changes as we get older, but new research outlined in this piece on Quartz suggests that one thing stays the same: the person we spend the most time with as we age is ourselves. In fact, starting at the age of 40, the amount of time we spend alone continues to increase until our deaths.
Data scientist Henrik Lindberg analyzed data from the American Time Use Survey collected between 2003 to 2015 to get a sense of who we spend our time with throughout our lives.
The fact that our time spent alone starts increasing so early in life is surprising, but many of Lindberg’s other findings are consistent with life transitions like having children or retiring. For example, the data showed that the number of friends we have generally peaks at the age of 25 but decreases dramatically during our mid-30s. The data also showed a spike in the amount of time we spend with children in our mid-30s, which is when many people start families. Lastly, between the ages of 45 and 55, the number of friends we have begins to plateau.
While the idea of spending more time alone may seem disheartening, Quartz writers Corinne Purtill and Dan Kopf noted that a decrease in the number of social interactions we have doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re lonely. Citing research conducted by Stanford University psychologist Linda Carstensen, Purtill and Kopf state that our ability to emotionally regulate improves as we get older, meaning that people are more satisfied with the quality of their relationships, regardless of how many or few they are in number.
Read more about relationship patterns and aging in Quartz.