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A 60-Year-Long Journey of Friendship

Lew Wilcox and Bobby Rohrbach Jr. met in the summer of 1962, riding their bikes together in a small southern Ohio town.

These days, every Saturday, one picks the other up and they go out for breakfast, run errands, and talk about families, home repairs and how the world is changing. If one can’t remember a place or name, the other can fill in because they so often lived the same story. They didn’t outgrow the other or leave the other behind and still live within about five miles of their childhood homes. “I have a lot of friends but there’s something special about our friendship,” says Lew, 75, of his friend, Bobby, 73.

Yet as important as they are, people have fewer close friendships than they once did. Forty-percent of Americans say they don’t have a best friend at all, up from 25% in 1990. The best-friend gap is more pronounced for men, who typically have fewer close friends than women do. The percentage of men without any close friends jumped fivefold to 15% in 2021 from 3% in 1990, according to the May 2021 American Perspectives Survey.

Michael Addis, director of the Research Group on Men’s Well-Being, says, “We were taught for generations to focus on work, family, and productivity. Don’t share what is really going on inside with other men.”

Time together deepens bonds. Becoming a best friend takes 300 hours of togetherness, one study reported. Those fortunate enough to have friends through the decades develop a common history that fresh friendships often don’t.

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