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U.S. experiences an epidemic of loneliness. Could making more friends help?

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The United States is experiencing an epidemic of loneliness. A report from the U.S. surgeon general says about half of adults claim they've experienced loneliness.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

So for some advice on how to make friends, we turn to some young experts.

LILIANA: I make friends by sitting next to them at lunch or in a class.

COLIN: It's a little hard and a little easy. You could play with them or they can play with you, so you should ask them nicely.

OWEN: Try to be nice because usually people don't want to be your friends if you're mean to them.

MARTÍNEZ: Aw. That's Liliana Beckwith, Colin Seduski and Liliana's brother, Owen Beckwith. The fear of rejection sometimes holds people back from making friends.

MARISA FRANCO: When you assume people like you, you are friendlier, you are warmer, you're more open, you take more initiative.

MARTIN: That is University of Maryland psychologist Marisa Franco. She's the author of "Platonic: How The Science Of Attachment Can Help You Make And Keep Friends." And she says paying attention to people can help you connect with them.

FRANCO: If you're just, like, present and you're just, like, interested in people, like, that's enough. You don't have to charm people.

MARTIN: Having someone to confide in can also affect the way your body deals with stressful situations. Research shows strong social connections can reduce the risk of heart disease, dementia and improve your overall well-being.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, just ask 4-year-old Edith Wiencek.

EDITH: When I'm with my friends, it makes me feel happy.

MARTIN: OK, so A...

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter).

MARTIN: You don't have any trouble making friends, am I right?

MARTÍNEZ: Oh, no, I do because I don't want any new friends.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

MARTÍNEZ: Look, I describe myself as friendly, not social. So in order to make new friends, you kind of have to be social. But since I don't want to do that...

MARTIN: So can I be your friend?

MARTÍNEZ: I thought we were.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: I was just checking.

MARTÍNEZ: What do you - I have to audition now?

MARTIN: I was just checking. I was just making sure...

MARTÍNEZ: Aw, have to go through a whole process.

MARTIN: ...Because, you know, we're all - we're both nice. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.