Want to feel happier? Start cutting people out of your friendship circle.

Smart people want fewer friends. That’s what the research says. Published research in the British Journal of Psychology no less.

It’s no secret, and in fact it has been proven countless times, that having friends and interacting with them regularly helps with people’s happiness and feelings of well-being. Friends are as beneficial to your health as quitting smoking, and isolated people run twice the risk of dying from heart disease than those with a solid circle of friends.

But this new research (taken from 15,000 participants aged 18-28) found that shrinking the friendship circle made the smarter ones in the group happier.

Smart people don’t like too many people it seems. Why would you, if you had to constantly correct some “friends” pronunciation of cerebral?

Hannah has a very small, tight-knit friend group on girls. Image via HBO.

The Savannah Theory of Happiness, conducted by evolutionary psychologists Satoshi Kanazawa of the London School of Economics and Norman Li of Singapore Management University, has gained a lot of traction and attention with The Washington Post this week calling this type of modern social friendship behaviour “Paleo Happiness”.

Like the Paleo diet, according to The Washington Post this is another Paleo theory that has its origins in “the idea that our bodies are best adapted to the environment of our earliest ancestors.”

Back in the Paleo days, caves were homes, communication was via iGrunt and humans needed each other to survive. Friends were useful as well as great to bore with another story of that lion kill near the waterhole. There were no cities, just groups of people – around 150 – living their entire lives together. Being social, helping with hunting and fighting off predators, was essential for surviving another day.


Kanazawa and Li believe the hunter gatherer simple lifestyle our ancestors lived by forms the basis of our happiness today. (As evolutionary psychologists, that whole We-Do- Everything-Because-Our-Ancestors-Did-It really is the starting point so no surprises there).

That’s why the study also found that people living in high density areas reported less overall happiness. Remember: they didn’t have high density out in the savannah. Tall trees don’t count.

The Paleo diet has been pioneered by chef Pete Evans. Listen to the Mamamia Out Loud podcast below as they weigh in on the fad. Post continues after audio… 

But what was harder to explain in the study, according to News Every Day was why “intelligent individuals were actually less satisfied with life if they socialized with their friends more frequently.”

A reason could be because smarter people are more focused on another long term goal (think curing cancer, finishing off that biography of Karl Marx). Or despite the modern world being unsuitable for happiness and health – hence the rash of Paleo theories – smarter people are better at adapting all the way to less social interaction if needed.

I have another theory about so-called Paleo Happiness. Smarter people can’t be bothered. They’ve shut up the friendship shop. They’re pruning the friendship tree rather than fertilising it. They have enough friends. They don’t need anymore.

Last year Time Magazine reported that quality beats quantity when it comes to friends and you need three to five friends for optimal well-being.

What’s the last text you received from your best friend? Our team reveal their’s below. Post continues after video…


How many do you talk to regularly? How many can you call if you are in real trouble? How many could you travel overseas with?

Realistically would you really tell your hopes, dreams and secrets to 22 “friends”? Would you realistically find 19 “friends” who would laugh when you attempt the Pasa Doble at 1am? Yes, you want heaps of people to turn up to your funeral but there is a limit to how many people you can emotionally invest in right now.

That’s another thing smart people know. Forget Paleo Happiness as the reason for smart people thinning out their friendship groups and socialising less frequently. Smart people know less is often more.

And they’re tired and just can’t be bothered to go out tonight. And sometimes they want to stay home and watch Netflix. And sometimes they can’t like or love every single one of your Facebook pics because they need to eat.

Limiting the numbers in your friendship group and the amount of your social interactions isn’t Paleo Happiness. It’s smart. That’s why smart people do it.

Click through the gallery below for some of our favourite celebrity friendships…