People in America have fewer close friends nowadays than they did two decades ago, researchers announced Friday.

New research compared studies from 1985 and 2004. On average, each person in 2004 reported 2.08 close friends — those they felt they could discuss important matters with. That's down from 2.94 people in 1985.

People who said they had no one with whom to discuss such matters more than doubled, to nearly 25 percent.

"The evidence shows that Americans have fewer confidants, and those ties are also more family-based than they used to be," said Lynn Smith-Lovin, professor of sociology at Duke University.

"This change indicates something that's not good for our society," Smith-Lovin said. "Ties with a close network of people create a safety net. These ties also lead to civic engagement and local political action."

The findings are published in the June 2006 issue of the journal American Sociological Review.

The research also showed that people who talked only to family members about important matters increased from 57 percent to 80 percent over the two decades, while the number who depended totally on a spouse rose from 5 percent to 9 percent.

The results are based on responses from more than 1,400 American adults to the General Social Survey, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago since 1972.

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