Evolutionary psychologists Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Norman Li of Singapore Management University have discovered that, “Situations and circumstances that would have increased our ancestors’ life satisfaction in the ancestral environment may still increase our life satisfaction today,” which may explain why “the savanna theory of happiness” is so important when determining what situations and circumstances are most ideal for modern happiness. A national survey of 15,000 individuals between the ages of 18 and 28 reveals that, “The higher the population density of the immediate environment, the less happy” on average the population will be.”
However, as is the case with most research, the results are not that cut and dry. The study also found that highly intelligent people were unhappy under similar conditions: “The effect of population density on life satisfaction was therefore more than twice as large for low-IQ individuals than for high-IQ individuals. . . . [M]ore intelligent individuals were actually less satisfied with life if they socialized with their friends more frequently.” Even more fascinating is the apparent reason why highly intelligent individuals are happier alone: they may have evolved past the primitive instincts that other human beings still experience.
Primitive humans were hunter-gatherers, so social relationships were essential to survival. Psychologists argue that intelligent people inherently realize that there are now many more benefits to spending time alone as opposed to spending time with groups: “More intelligent individuals, who possess higher levels of general intelligence and thus greater ability to solve evolutionarily novel problems, may face less difficulty in comprehending and dealing with evolutionarily novel entities and situations.”
It has long been known that exercise and limiting social media use reduces anxiety, and also that connecting with nature brings human beings peace and makes us happy. Yet, the insights from Kanazawa and from within the paper itself now provide us with more meaningful and useful facts: “the main associations of life satisfaction with population density and socialization with friends significantly interact with intelligence and, in the latter case, main association is revered among the extremely intelligent. More intelligent individuals experience lower life satisfaction with more frequent socialization with friends.”
Even if these findings are the opposite of what you may have expected, it’s vital to use them for your own benefit—and to eliminate unhappiness in your own life whenever possible.