People `trust each other less'

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PEOPLE'S TRUST in others has declined steadily over the last 20 years causing growing social isolation and a breakdown in community spirit, new research has revealed.

A study, published in the American Journal of Sociology, showed that although people trusted each other less, their trust in organisations such as government and religion remained the same as it was in 1975. Individual scandals, such as fraud, lying or immoral behaviour by certain religious and political leaders affects people's trust for a very short period of time.

Researchers from Ohio State University, analysed data from a survey of people across America that asked questions about trust, such as whether respondents thought people "would try to take advantage of you if they got a chance".

The findings showed that trust in individuals declined about 10 per cent between 1975 and 1994. "I don't think there's a crisis," said Pamela Paxton, an assistant professor of sociology and author of the study. "People still talk to their neighbours, they still participate in associations and they generally trust the major institutions of society."