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By Fiona Macrae
Last updated at 9:53 PM on 23rd October 2008

In love, two is company and three's a crowd. But in friendship, ten is the magic number.

Being able to count at least ten people as friends makes us happy, researchers say. But those with five or fewer are likely to be miserable with their lot, they claim.

Their study of hundreds of men and women also found that contented sorts tend to have lots of close friends and regularly make new ones.

Sociable: Happier people tend to have more close friends, as long as they don't divide themselves too thinly

While it is not clear whether our friends make us happy or we make friends because we are happy, the researchers say it is clear we should nourish our friendships.

Psychologist Richard Tunney said: 'Whatever the reason, actively working on friendships in the same way as to maintain a marriage is a prerequisite to happiness.'

Dr Tunney, of Nottingham University, quizzed more than 1,700 people about their satisfaction with their lives and the state of their friendships. 

Those with five friends or fewer had just a 40 per cent chance of being happy. In other words, they were more likely to be unhappy than happy.

Ten was the first number at which people were more likely to be happy than unhappy. Happiest of the lot were those with dozens of friends, according to the study, which was carried out for the National Lottery.
For women, this meant having 33 friends; for men, the figure was 49.

Dr Tunney said: 'People who were extremely satisfied with their lives had twice the number of friends of people who were extremely dissatisfied.' Women tended to have fewer friends than men but formed tighter bonds.

Interestingly, the study found that childhood friends are no more likely to make us happy than people we become close to later in life.

Happiness by numbers: Those with five friends or fewer had just a 40 per cent chance of being happy
Lottery winners, however, had a different take on life. They tended to be happier than others despite spending their time with a small circle of old friends.

This could be because they trust those they've known for longest. Alternatively, financial security may allow them to lavish more time and attention on those who matter the most to them.

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