Although patterns of social contacts are believed to be an important determinant of infectious disease transmission, there is little empirical evidence to back this up. Indeed, no previous study has linked individual risk of respiratory infection with someone's current pattern of social contacts. We explored whether the frequency of different types of social encounters were associated with current pneumococcal carriage and self-reported acute respiratory symptoms (ARS), though a survey in Uganda in 2014. In total 566 participants were asked about their daily social encounters and about symptoms of ARS in the last two weeks. A nasopharyngeal specimen was also taken from each participant. We found that the frequency of physical (i.e. skin-to-skin), long (>1h) and household contacts -which capture some measure of close (i.e. relatively intimate) contact- was higher among pneumococcal carriers than non-carriers, and among people with ARS compared to those without, irrespective of their age. With each additional physical encounter the age-adjusted risk of carriage and ARS increased by 6% (95%CI 2-9%) and 9% (1-18%) respectively. In contrast, the number of casual contacts (<5 minutes long) was not associated with either pneumococcal carriage or ARS. A detailed analysis by age of contacts showed that the number of close contacts with young children (<5 years) was particularly higher among older children and adult carriers than non-carriers, while the higher number of contacts among people with ARS was more homogeneous across contacts of all ages. Our findings provide key evidence that the frequency of close interpersonal contact is important for transmission of respiratory infections, but not that of casual contacts. Such results strengthen the evidence for public health measures based upon assumptions of what contacts are important for transmission, and are important to improve disease prevention and control efforts, as well as inform research on infectious disease dynamics.