FRIENDS FOREVER

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Krista Bermudez met her best friend, Robin Weinand, in 1990 when they were freshmen on the swim team at Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park, Kan. Over the past 12 years, they have done more than swim laps together; they've paddled through life side by side. Both attended Kansas State University, where they met Pedro and Chad, fellow students who also happened to be best friends. Both couples married and now live just seven miles from each other in suburban Kansas City. The two women see each other at least once a week and talk on the phone even more often. “We don't usually go out to bars together anymore,� says Bermudez. “Instead, we normally go out to dinner or just cook at one of our places.�

Bermudez and Weinand's tight friendship is not so rare. According to the latest survey conducted exclusively for American Demographics by e.Nation, a service of Schaumburg, Ill.-based research firm Market Facts, the typical American has known his or her best friend for 14 years, and more than half of us (55 percent) still make time to give our best friend a call at least once a week.

The nationally representative survey of 1,000 adults, conducted online between August 1 and 6, 2002, reveals that 65 percent of Americans have known their best friend (defined as anyone not related to the respondent by birth or by marriage) for at least 10 years, including 36 percent who have shared life with their best bud for 20 years or more. Only 15 percent of adults have known their best friend for less than five years.

It is said that opposites attract, but apparently not when it comes to friendship. For the most part, people hang out with those who are demographically similar to themselves. According to the American Demographics/Market Facts survey, 92 percent of women say their best friend is a woman and 88 percent of men say their best friend is another man. Seventy-three percent of Americans' best friends are within five years of their own age. Just 16 percent say their best friend is someone more than five years younger than they are, and only 12 percent say their best friend is at least five years older.

In addition to demographic similarities, best friends tend to be at similar life stages. For instance, 73 percent of married adults say their best friend is also married, and 70 percent of unmarried folks (which includes individuals who are divorced, widowed, separated or never married) say their best friend is also not married.

Friendship does, however, seem to cross tax brackets. According to the survey, 36 percent of respondents say their best friend is better off financially, while 21 percent say the friend is worse off than they are. Forty-three percent are best friends with someone of equal financial status.

Still, regardless of their financial situation, best friends are always on standby to provide a little fast cash to a friend in need. Almost 3 in 4 adults (74 percent) say they would readily loan their best friend $1,000. Nearly as many (71 percent) say they would even risk their life for their best pal. Interestingly, though, more Americans would put their life on the line for their friend than move in with them; only 56 percent say they would live with their best friend.

Bunkmates or not, there is no lack of personal contact. According to the American Demographics/Market Facts survey, 45 percent of adults say they meet their best friend in person at least once a week, including 16 percent who say they meet them every single day. Only 27 percent of Americans say they see their friend less than once a month, a figure that makes sense given that 22 percent live more than 100 miles away from their pal.

But there are other ways to keep in touch, and Americans use every one of them. Almost a quarter (23 percent) call their best friend on a daily basis. Born with the gift of gab, women are more likely than men to call their friend once a day (27 percent versus 20 percent), and young adults are more likely to chat on the phone than are older folks. Fully 71 percent of respondents under age 25 (compared with 50 percent of those 65 and older) said they check in with their amigo over the phone at least once a week, and 1 in 3 (36 percent) phone daily.

Considering their knack with technology, it isn't surprising that young adults are also more likely to e-mail or instant message their friends than are all other age cohorts. Whereas 40 percent of all online adults e-mail their best friend weekly and 23 percent instant message them just as often, 51 percent of those between 18 and 24 e-mail their best friend at least once a week and 55 percent instant message them.

Does anyone put pen to paper anymore? Not really. In fact, 40 percent of adults surveyed say they never send their best friend letters or cards. Forty-one percent say they do, but less than once a month. Interestingly, it isn't the wired youngsters who are the least likely to lick and seal. Almost half (48 percent) of adults between 35 and 44 say they never send snail mail to their best friend, compared with 40 percent of those under 35. Sixty-nine percent of seniors (ages 65 and older) say they still send their best friend a handwritten letter or card from time to time. But most of them admit they drop a letter in the mail less than once a month. It appears that best friends don't make the best pen pals.

ROAD TRIP!

The majority of Americans (91 percent) say they would go on vacation with their best friend.

PERCENT OF ADULTS WHO WOULD GO ON VACATION WITH THEIR BEST FRIEND:

All 91%
Men 88%
Women 93%
18-24 95%
25-34 94%
35-44 90%
45-54 87%
55-64 94%
65+ 83%
With kids 94%
No kids 89%
Source: American Demographics/Market Facts

KEEP IN TOUCH

Women are more likely to call, e-mail or instant message their best friend on a daily basis, but men are more likely to meet their best bud in person.

ABOUT HOW OFTEN EACH MONTH DO YOU CONTACT YOUR BEST FRIEND?

CALL E-MAIL INSTANT MESSAGE MEET IN PERSON
M F M F M F M F
Every day 20% 27% 10% 19% 9% 12% 17% 15%
Once or twice a week 27% 35% 21% 28% 10% 15% 28% 29%
Once every two weeks 20% 15% — 11% — — 14% 15%
Once a month 14% 12% 9% — — — 11% 12%
Less than once a month 15% 10% 11% — — — 27% 26%
Never — — 42% 30% 68% 60% — —
— Sample size too small.
Source: American Demographics/Market Facts
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