New study shows how age, sex affect social activity


The number of connections reaches a maximum at the age of 25 for both genders.

Unnamed call records, gender and age information of 3 million mobile phone users from a European country were used to provide a probabilistic interpretation about the communication patterns of individuals. The findings reveal that patterns in communication reflect the social goals of individuals. There is a clear difference in which men and women maintain their relationships.

“Young men are more connected than young women, and the patterns of connection change for both men and women as they grow older,” states Postdoctoral researcher Kunal Bhattacharya from the Department of Computer Science at Aalto University.

At the age of 25 age both men and women are able to invest time in maintaining large social circles. This is also the time when men and women start looking for their prospective romantic partners. Once people settle down in life, they withdraw from causal relationships and invest time to balance between work and family life.

“The number of connections reaches maximum at the age of 25 for both genders. While men maintain a lot of casual relationships women seem to be more focused on their romantic partner,” explains Bhattacharya.

After the age of 25 the social circles start shrinking until it stabilizes again in late 40s. After 60s the decay begins again and old people appear to be rather socially isolated. However, on average older people use mobile technology less than others.

“From the late 30s women become more connected than men. This is when people get married, settle down and participate in the parenthood. The communication patterns of women would suggest their pivotal roles as parents and grandparents,” adds Bhattacharya.

“From late 40s till mid-60s the number of contacts is rather stable. This is the period when individuals divide time between varied family relations, such as children, parents, in-laws of children and friends,” concludes Bhattacharya.

The joint study of Department of Computer Science, Aalto University and Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, shows how technological networks mirror the social fabric, and how data obtained from such networks may serve as tools to better understand the society. The data is from 2007, a period that precedes the advent of most of the social media.

(Image Credit: Flickr)

This article originally appeared at Aalto University.

Journal References:

  1. Kunal Bhattacharya, Asim Ghosh, Daniel Monsivais, Robin I. M. Dunbar, Kimmo Kaski. Sex differences in social focus across the life cycle in humans. Royal Society Open Science, 2016; 3 (4): 160097 DOI:10.1098/rsos.160097
Posted in Psychology, Science & Society on April 11, 2016