Washington: How happy we feel about life may be encoded in our genes, according to a new global study that identified genetic variants associated with feelings of well-being, depression and neuroticism.
The study is one of the largest on the genes involved in human behaviour. More than 190 researchers in 140 institutions in 17 countries analysed genomic data from nearly 300,000 people. How people think and feel about their lives depends on multiple factors, including genes.
“We applied advanced statistical analyses and meta-analysed, or combined, results across a large number of studies, which is the most powerful way to conduct this type of genetics research,” said Alexis Frazier-Wood, assistant professor at the Texas Children’s Hospital in US. “We found three genetic variants associated with subjective well-being – how happy a person thinks or feels about his or her life,” said Frazier-Wood.
“We also found two genes harbouring variants associated with depressive symptoms and 11 genes where variation was associated with neuroticism,” she said. The genetic variants do not determine whether someone develops depressive symptoms, neuroticism or has a poor sense of wellbeing, researchers said.
“Genetics is only one factor that influences these psychological traits. The environment is at least as important, and it interacts with the genetic effects,” said Daniel Benjamin, associate professor at the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. The information in this report allows researchers to look at possible ways to study these conditions.
“We can start studying the functions of these genes to begin to understand why biologically some people are more predisposed to feel this way than others,” said Frazier-Wood. The study was published in the journal Nature Genetics.