In one of the largest studies ever conducted on genes and their effect on human behaviour, genetic variants that were related to happiness were discovered. Other genetic variants associated with other traits were found, including emotions like depression, well-being, and neuroticism.
The study was published in the journal Nature and involved 190 researchers in 140 research centers across in 17 countries. Bringing multiple studies together, and using advanced statistics to analyze the data, the number of people in the study reached an astronomical 298,000 people.
“We report that we found three genetic variants associated with subjective well-being – how happy a person thinks or feels about his or her life. We also found two genes harboring variants associated with depressive symptoms and 11 genes where variation was associated with neuroticism,” said researcher Alexis Frazier-Wood, assistant professor of pediatrics and nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine.
Scientists have always had the idea individual differences in happiness and well-being could possibly be linked to variations in genetics. Since well-being is becoming more and more accepted as factor in both physical and mental health, researchers are keen to explore this area of genetics further.
While genes aren’t entirely the cause of happiness or depression, studying them could help us understand why some people might be biologically inclined to develop these symptoms as opposed to others.
“The genetic overlap with depressive symptoms that we have found is also a breakthrough. This shows that research into happiness can also offer new insights into the causes of one of the greatest medical challenges of our time: depression,” said Prof. Meike Bartels, from VU University Amsterdam.