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Surprising Science

Happiness Linked to Genetics

Your overall happiness may depend in part on whether you drew the long or short version of a gene, say researchers who have uncovered a genetic link to happiness in a study of 2,500 Americans.

What’s the Latest Development?

Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, a researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science, recently asked 2,500 Americans how satisfied they were with life. Then he analyzed their genetic makeup. What he found was that the respondents most satisfied with life were more likely to have two long versions of the gene 5-HTT which is involved with the transport of serotonin, a feelgood chemical, in the brain. “De Neve looked at the genetic makeup of 2,574 people selected to be representative of the general population, whose medical histories were recorded for the U.S. National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Should depressives blame their genes? Should the irrepressibly optimistic thank theirs? Probably not. Happiness is only partly influenced by genetic makeup, but De Neve’s study could provide a greater understanding of happiness and, in the future, might allow would-be parents to create a child who will be more satisfied with their life. “‘This gene [5-HTT] has an important influence, but you cannot say it causes happiness. Happiness is hugely complex and your experiences throughout the course of your life will remain the dominant force on that,’ De Neve said.”


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