The pandemic's pressures have caused a third of us to fall out with loved ones

Two friends arguing in park. (Getty Images)
Has anything caused you to fall out with your friends during COVID-19? (Getty Images)

As many as one in three Brits (32%) have fallen out with friends and family due to the stress and restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic.

This rises to more than half (55%) of under 35s and people living in the capital, new insights from the LifeSearch Health Wealth and Happiness Index 2022 finds.

But while this may seem brutal, it also seems to have made room for improvements to other relationships, and even boosted some people's mental health.

Of those UK adults who have suffered fallouts since the onset of COVID-19, they have lost four friends on average (4.3), rising to five among men, and 3.6 among women.

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The new research represents the strain put on relationships due the many new things we have had to grapple with, like social distancing, masks, vaccines and travel.

"The last two years has put some incredible pressures and stress on people that has tested the strength and validity of relationships with those closest to us," says Emma Walker, chief marketing officer at LifeSearch who commissioned the study.

"We’ve all had to adapt to a very different way of living and COVID-19 restrictions – from vaccines to mask-wearing – have created some very polarised views; enough that some have chosen to walk away from relationships with family and friends."

Friends sitting away from each other angry on bench. (Getty Images)
Young people have lost an average of five friends. (Getty Images)

Young people (55%) aged 18-34 have shed more friends due to COVID-19 than any other age group, averaging five (4.5), compared to four (3.5) among over 55s.

And 21% of young people have lost five or more friendships over the last two years, vs just 3% of the older age group. Meanwhile, 10% of all Brits and 15% of men have lost five+ friendships.

Some 48% of people people from ethnic minority backgrounds (rising to 61% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi Brits) have fallen out with loved ones, averaging five (5.4) people each and six (6.4) among the later group.

However, Walker adds, "In this time of adversity many have also formed stronger bonds or made new friends. In fact, one silver lining is that on average we’ve made just as many good friends as we’ve lost."

More than one in two Brits (55%) have formed stronger bonds with friends and family since the pandemic began.

Of those who did, they have four (4.3) stronger connections per person, rising slightly among men (4.5 vs 4.1 women) and to five (4.6) among those aged 18-34.

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Friends laughing doing yoga classes together. (Getty Images)
While many have lost friends, many have also formed healthier relationships for them. (Getty Images)

While London is the 'de-friending capital' of the UK, with them waving goodbye to an average of five friends, they too have boosted relationships with the same number of people.

And though insights find the more money Brits earn, the more likely they are to have tossed friendships aside (56% of the survey’s highest income group of £100,000+), dropping friends at an average of seven each, they have experienced benefits benefits with six new or old people in their circle.

Three-quarters (75%) of people from ethnic minority backgrounds have also formed stronger bonds, making or strengthening the same number as they lost on average.

This trend is similar among Pakistani and Bangladeshi Brits, with 85% gaining six (5.6) stronger friendships.

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And on top of these benefits, the research also suggests that cutting out some friends might actually be actively good for your mental health.

More than two-thirds (68%) of those who feel their mental health improved 'a lot' in 2021 discarded an average of seven (6.9) friendships in that time. Coincidence or not?

The study, carried out by Opinium Research, was conducted in January 2022 among 2,000 UK adults, alongside bespoke research among 502 ethnic minority groups in the UK, 'weighted to be more nationally representative'.

Watch: 5 top tips to boost your mental health