Telling people to spend more time with friends and family seems like an obvious piece of advice, appropriate to anyone who lives alone or simply doesn’t have a very active social life. Just like many other ‘self-evident’ things, however, this might actually be false.
A recent study, published in the British Journal of Psychology, looked at a survey of 15,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 28, which included information about their living environments, well-being, IQ and relationships, and found that people with higher IQs who live in cities are happier than their less intelligent counterparts in urban environments.
By the same token, people with lower IQs seem to do better in rural areas with a lower population density. But why would this be so?
According to study lead author Dr Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics, this could be explained by the “savanna theory of happiness”, which states, much like its cousin “paleo diet” in the realm of human nutrition, that our bodies and minds still prefer things that existed way before the current era.
“More intelligent individuals are better able to… see such evolutionarily novel situation as higher population density as what it truly is — a benign situation that requires no alarm or discomfort,” said Kanazawa. “Hence more intelligent individuals are less likely to experience lower levels of happiness in response to higher population density than less intelligent individuals.”
Leading happiness researchers, such as Dr Carol Graham from the Brookings Institute, also note that individuals with higher intelligence coefficients tend to see excessive socializing as a distraction from what they perceive as more worthwhile pursuits, like building a career or engaging in self-improvement.
Intriguing as it is, the “paleo happiness” theory is, nonetheless, just a theory. Even Kanazawa himself admits that the present study, not unlike most of his other work, is an exercise in basic science, which merely seeks to explain nature.
So don’t ditch your friends just yet and take this preliminary work with a pinch of salt.