How many people do we know?

Miranda Jessica Lubbers, José Luis Molina and Hugo Valenzuela, (Investigation Group GRAFO, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
Adaptation: Xavier Aguilar

Each Spanish citizen knows (on average) 536 people, although the breadth of this social circle can vary widely between individuals. The research presented in this article shows that factors such as age, gender, education and income level influence the number of people with whom we have regular dealings. Furthermore, it analyses to what point having more or fewer acquaintances can predispose people to receiving types of support that we usually relate with closest friendships.
Key points
  • 1
       The circle of family members and close friends consists of some 23 people. That of acquaintances, despite being traditionally less valued, also has the capacity to offer emotional and economic support.
  • 2
       The majority of the population have an habitual relationship with around 400 acquaintances, but there is a great variability between people. In more extreme cases, acquaintances may number dozens or several thousand.
  • 3
       In addition to participating in associative organisations, there are factors associated with a greater social life. Being a man, being young, having a job, higher education and economic resources are some of them.
  • 4
       The result of this study for Spain is consistent with the few previous studies conducted in other countries.
Who knows the most people?
Who knows the most people?

The study of broader social circles, less considered by the social sciences than the relationship with family members and close friends, has also brought to light certain inequalities. People who, because of their vulnerability, need more support and protection are, precisely, the ones who have the least possibilities of achieving this because they know fewer people.

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