If you’re intelligent, you’re better off alone.

At least, that’s what a recent study in the British Journal of Psychology claims. The question that evolutionary psychologists Kanazawa and Li were looking to answer is what makes a life well-lived and how intelligence, population density and friendship can affect our happiness.

The psychologists theorized that the lifestyle of our ancient ancestors form the basis of what makes us happy in modern times,

“Situations and circumstances that would have increased our ancestors’ life satisfaction in the ancestral environment may still increase our life satisfaction today.”

Their study was carried out on 15,000 adults aged between 18 – 28 and their results weren’t actually all that surprising.

Firstly, their findings showed that people who lived in more densely populated areas were less satisfied with their life in general, compared to those who live in less populated areas.

The second finding that the psychologists discovered was that the more social a person is with their close friends, the greater they said their happiness was.

But there was an exception.

These correlations were diminished or even reversed when the results of intelligent people were analyzed. In other words – when smart people spend time with their friends, it makes them less happy.

Why would intelligent people not gain happiness when they’re around close family and friends? There may be many explanations, including the one given by Carol Graham, a researcher who studies the economics of happiness,

The findings in here suggest (and it is no surprise) that those with more intelligence and the capacity to use it … are less likely to spend so much time socializing because they are focused on some other longer-term objective.

This generally makes sense since those intelligent people are so focused on achieving their intellectual goals, anything that takes away from those ambitions makes them unhappy.

The modern day human life has changed rapidly since our ancestors’ time and with technological advances rapidly improving, there may be a kind of mismatch between our brains and the way our bodies are designed to handle situations, according to Kanazawa and Li.

So there we have it. We thought that human interaction would make people happier, but it turns out intelligent people are better off alone.

What do you think of these recent findings? Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments.

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This Post Has 131 Comments

  1. Yazan Al Tawalbeh

    I am strongly agree with conclusions of your study ?…
    I noticed this before as glimpse but did not gave it attention until I read you article ?…
    Yes it’s better to rise your intellectualin loneliness than being in crowd of different energies !!

  2. Happy Person

    I am highly intelligent (a gifted IQ), my husband is even more so. And we love hanging out with our friends and each other. We are very happy in general. So I guess there are always exceptions to studies but I would be interested in knowing more about the study like sample size, etc.

    1. Elizabeth

      article says sample size was 15,000, ages 18-28 yrs

  3. Byron Christensen

    …extremely interesting, and I agree.

  4. Robert Rensch

    I have been accused of being intelligent… not sure why, but I love time alone. I also realize that a lot of motivation can be gotten from fellowship. This would be spending time with others sharing a common interest or skill. Just partying becomes an easy route to self medication if one has psychological quirks, (such as I have), and easily becomes counter-productive.

  5. Ariel

    Please enlighten me, how do you define inteligence? What/who are the inteligent people? Inteligence is defined operationally, so intelligence becames whatever that particular (intelligence) test measures.

    1. George

      If you were a bit smarter you would have made a quick search on google and found out about normal distribution.

      1. joe bhole

        how about skewed distribution? how about you explain what you meant by that statement. and how it answers ariels question.

  6. X55R

    Well, “better off alone” may not be what is meant here. If you have a friend who loves doing the same things that you do, if you can spend (and enjoy) time together without talking and everyone is working on their stuff, or even if you work together on the same goal. That is happiness.

  7. Jay Jay

    Doesn’t this mean that many of us are trying too hard to do things we were not designed to do? Sounds pretty futile if you ask me.

  8. gopi

    i am a bachelor who totally agree with that…

  9. Judy

    I always knew being alone was better for me, thought something was wrong with me. I get very tired and drained after I spend time with family or friends. I agree 100%.

    1. Theresa leigh

      I often feel disappointed when trying to relate some theory or explain a concept or even discuss a book with my friends. They’re not on the same wave length. I realize I’d be happier if I had more intelligent friends but I’m not young anymore and life is different than it used to be. I don’t have the freedom I used to have to just start all over.

      1. Tracy

        I realized last September that I was drinking every day to tolerate those in my “social” circle. This included my oldest, dearest friend. I understood finally that I didn’t wan’t to be around them. When I was with them, it was tiresome and boring so I drank with them to ease the frustration.
        I haven’t completely disolved these associations but they’re less likely to be in my space now that we don’t have drinking in common.
        Those on the same “wave length” are often few and far between and are uplifting as opposed to downdragging.
        I’m happiest when I’m alone or with someone in the uplifting category.
        And no more hangovers.

  10. BM

    I agree. I have so many projects I work on that people usually cost me time.

  11. Bikash Chaudhary

    I agree with this but sometimes i feel also better with intelligent people talking

  12. Vincent Salgado

    I spent most of my youth alone because we lived in a terrible neighborhood with lots of crime. We had to spend our free time locked up in our homes. So I would spend my time listening to shortwave radio broadcasts from around the world (Radio Habana Cuba, HCJB, Radio Nederland, among others) and reading. I wasn’t must of a sports person and TV gave me headaches. Now I realize that this experience gave me the tools to survive well by myself. In college and in law school, I declined study groups because I always did better by myself. Even now, in my professional life, the same holds true. So…..don’t know about the intelligence factor but in my case, it was environmental conditioning. I learned to be alone and make the most of it.

  13. Regina Carpenter

    I think that it depends on the quality of the relationships we have whether we are happier alone. I do think that if we don’t have an affinity with our family members and friends, we are better off alone. If we have relationships with those who are like us, who think the way we do, then we become One, spiritually speaking. It’s like being alone, there are just two of us being One.

  14. steelviper

    Isaac Newton is a prime example of this. He worked his butt off and couldn’t have a conversation with anyone because he was so focused


    Really, it’s true. Me,whenever I’m together with My friends, they become very happy but, me I feels like, I’m waisting My time instead of doing something that’s lucrative to My life. I’m more than Happy when I’m alone because, there’ll be no one to break My Heart.

  16. John

    I strongly agree to this point….because I have experience with this.

  17. Ana

    Now I get it!

  18. swati parekhji

    If u mean by intelligence, high academic and professional achievement, then I have observed , what u say is right.

  19. Sannya

    My superiors and peers consider me as intelligent. I would find myself very… sad, depressed, regretful, etc. when I spend a lot of time hanging around with others, simply chatting nonsense and doing nothing. I’d feel that I wasted precious time and sometimes I’d feel guilty feeling so.

  20. Pari Mazi

    I’ve been wondering lately why it is that I prefer being alone to being with other people, even my friends and family who I really love. I attributed this to the fact that being a teacher requires a lot of energy so I needed time alone. However I realised that this is not the case. I believe that intelligent people are a step ahead and think more, analyse more, usually people who can’t follow their way of thinking frustrate them.

  21. Kevin Mackinlay

    Humans need time alone to focus in our own depths and to understand our own experience. Is not so simple to find two minds or more that can synchronise at the same level. Socially this days, the main focus of attention are technology, mixed up with superficiality and stupidity.

    1. Danielle

      I say the same. Most people would drown in a puddle these days. When your a person of depth it becomes lonely being around people. I find freedom and contentment in my own company, where I don’t have to deal with other people’s self created drama.

  22. joe bhole

    so intelligent people will generally not have goals that involve others?

    1. Kerri

      I’ve spent the weekend alone rather than socialise because I have a goal upcoming and I’m focusing on putting my energy into that, and because I really want this opportunity. But it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy socialising. I can be the most sociable person, but I have a long term goal which is my focus right now. And for that I need alone time.

    2. Lynne

      Yes they could, as long as those people can help meet and serve their long term goals and objectives

    3. Daniel

      Not have goals that involve their current friendship group

  23. Andrew B Brown

    – a “directional speaker” focuses sound on an individual.
    – brain waves can affect electromagnetic waves and the change can be measured “seismically”.

    So, the intelligent person can be used as the intellectual slave while the less intelligent party.

  24. Dr Barbara Lavi

    There’s a flaw in the research design. The study stopped at age 28. As a psychologist, I believe the parameters are too narrow to really understand whether people are happier alone or with others.

    1. Anni Hand

      I agree. I am not a psychologist but as a 57 year old it struck me that studying people up to the age of 28 was rather limiting. I am happier alone, and reasonably intelligent but I would have liked the study to have encompassed all age groups.

    2. Jo

      Agree with this comment, was a little disappointed at the age span and its parameters. Maybe had they done several studies involving different age/gender groups then studied the overall correlation it may have been a little more interesting.

      This aside I am a female in her mid fifties and find being around family, children and friends hard work on the mind, so many people with so many different opinions and often not stopping for a moment to rationalise their thoughts. Stress levels build up quickly as trust in my fellow man can often be compromised and is time consuming in unravelling what gossip or just plain dross!!

      So I applaud and love my alone time to recharge and re-evaluate my own peace and sanity, in what is an ever growing World of psychosis/paranoia and unhealthy tendancies.:-(

  25. Randy Brubaker

    I agree. I do not like to be around people and it is because I know the effects of stress so I have set my life to try to achieve as little stress as possible in it. This mainly includes not being around people after working hours. I have found that my life is much less stressful because I have complete charge of it and I do what I want.

    1. Pat

      I can completely relate to this – thank you for putting it into words! 🙂

  26. Tistou Blomberg

    I feel alone and worthless if I don’t have any friends… I feel like I’m wasting time when I’m with friends… I only feel well when I become stupid with friends… But that doesn’t feel sustainable…

    1. PeachyMom

      Thank you and agree

  27. Dave Greene

    Perhaps many highly intelligent people can’t stand being around people who do not think about things as deeply as they do or who do not quite get the nuances in their conversations.

    1. Danielle

      I totally agree.

    2. bek


    3. Tracy

      I hear ya, brother. Preach.

  28. judi

    i agree that people that live in cities are more dissatisfied with themselves .. what they have .what they look like etc.. like going into a home depot and you see all the ‘new stuff’ can make a person not like what they have at home .. i call it ‘chasing diversions ‘ because thats exactly what it is .. being around people alot takes a lot of emotional energy….

    1. Person

      I live in the middle of a city of 7 million, I’m pretty satisfied with myself. 🙂 Anyone anywhere can chase diversions. Amazon delivers them to your door.

    2. rox

      good comment, quite true

    3. PeachyMom

      Thank you and agree

  29. Dr Fadia

    Very true! I now know why I am happy to be doing new things and learning new stuff rather than socialising and parties….and I always feel short of time even then hahaha

    1. Monique

      I agree with Dr. Fadia, and feel better knowing it’s okay to be absorbed by ideas and pursuits other than dinners and evenings with friends. It’s not about feeling that others are not “deep” enough, it’s about being happy reading, thinking, writing, learning, and building or understanding something with my mind. I am happiest when I can become absorbed by my own mental pursuits with brief forays out into the world of live humans.

  30. Debbie

    I feel happiest when connecting with others in deeper,meaningful ways.I am a people person,but also quite intelligent,also not in the age range.I need some “alone”time that makes we happy.
    In my experience”intelligent”people are often those that are more analytical,and are happiest in their solitary pursuits,just a little “socializing”.

  31. Susan

    I am alone a lot and I like my Introspective time. I also enjoy sharing My Ideas and revolations. It give me purpose. I think its important to pick and choose who, what,and where we put ourselfs. I totally agree that I am more at ease when I am alone.. I don’t believe ultimately it is good to Isolate to much though because we don’t evolve with our world. And become eccentric to others around us, balence is key.

  32. Brian S

    I think it’s mostly an issue of relatable and stimulating people being fewer and farther between for the complex, deep thinkers. Most “social butterflies” can easily carry superficial chit chat about banal issues and TV shows but find discussions of complex, “meaty” topics quite boring. Many intelligent people are just the opposite.

  33. Sara

    If we line up, of course it feeds us both. If one carries more weight in spiritual riches, they tend to form into a parental role and if t hat person doesn’t want kids, then yeah they tend to find richness in solitude. But if it’s balance it’s no longer a give and take, rather an equal relaxed share, and super satisfying.

  34. Moe

    I think it has to do more with the upbringing of the individual and the way parents supported the child in hard times of socializing maybe, or perhaps of how healthy the house environment was..many factors i guess..was Albert Einestein unsocial? he was a member of many societies I believe..

  35. Michael

    Perhaps smart people are unhappy around close friends and relatives is because they are acutely aware of how dumb those friends and relatives are.

  36. Bob Owen

    my thoughts are that as a result of the modern wave of information which not to put too fine a point on it is junk trivia or manipulated media tripe those people who tend to reject this and look for their own version of The Truth quickly become bored when surrounded by by people regurgitating what they have been conditioned to think

  37. Karen Bell

    I am outside of the parameters with 48 yrs of life experience. Meditation and self study gives me the chance to recharge. I work with people so value my alone time. I enjoy small groups of like minded people around once a month. Often too much socialising can be shallow and a waste of precious energy.

  38. Teresa Kutchma

    Curious to know what test/s were used to measure intelligence in this study?

  39. ManuChao-Chao-Chao

    Collectivism is far more destructive than it is embracing towards individualism.
    Great inventions are products of great individual minds, imagine if those minds wouldn’t have had the intellect level to not noticing it??

  40. sam

    I think we need time alone so that when we come together we have fresh energy to do things together and are not burdened by some social stress. I do think though we have lost a greater sense of community and in order to regain it we need to spend more time together and less time alone.

  41. Ben

    Unlike intelligence, stupidity rubs off.

  42. JR

    Intelligent minds regularly seek the stimulus of other intelligent minds.

  43. Brent

    I would argue between substituting intelligent people with self aware people. Those who are self aware and more in touch with their focus will find less means of neglect and more means of focus. I’m sure that there are many ‘intelligent people’ and many that don’t always expand upon their qualities but get trapped in certain social circles without that experience or edge to whisk them away in greatness..

  44. Filipe Werneck

    Smart or inteligent people need to be alone for one simple reason: they are not good when communicating with others. They need time to recharge from the energy vampirism from others. They cannot stand at superficiality.


    I think this is the biggest reason why smart people rarely succeed in politics. 🙂

  46. Dr Rekha Das Adhikari

    Yes.. I fully agree with this finding. Nothing other than learning and self improving pursuits satisfies me.

    1. ilse

      But i love interaction when learning too with smart people.. i find it stimulating and more challenging to brainstorm about stuff.. it tickles my creativity much more. But not many people in life i find to do this with.. and then again.. the problem of needing to be alone arises again. It is a constant battle to find a kind of peace or satisfaction in that paradox. It causes me grief..

      1. Reinier Gunneman

        Great post. Regarding your paradox and grief, it might be your mind that is tricking you. It appears to be comparing.

  47. Naluwairo

    I think that smart people are better off alone because I have children who do not need interactions and they are smart and intelligent. I thought it was a problem but now I know it is so.

  48. Peter White

    I like my alone time. I have one friend, we go out for coffee or a meal from time to time. I do not work as I am a senior. As a young person I used to play drums, I have recently taken up the box drum, this is new and exciting to me.

  49. Hector

    I agree!

  50. ChristyH

    I would really like to know the Myers-Briggs types used in the people samples used for this opinion. “I” types require the alone time to process thoughts and energies from people activities. “E” types need other people around most all the time in order to internally process the same activities. I am an INFJ and need a certain amount of people time, but my quality time is definitely at home and, yes, alone.

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