Do you have a friend who is always smiling no matter the weather – an eternal optimist, irrelevant of anything else that’s going on in their life?
Annoying, isn’t it?
But maybe it’s not their fault. Perhaps they just have the happy gene, because according to a new study genetics may actually help to explain our predispositions to happiness, neuroticism and depression.
A large study that involved over 190 researchers across 140 research centres in 17 countries analyzed the genomic data of hundreds of thousands of people and found that there are variants associated with our feelings.
The paper published in Nature Genetics journal outlined the findings of the extensive work, which analyzed the DNA of 300,000 people to see if there were hereditary links to more naturally chipper people.
The study conducted an investigation on three phenotypes: subjective well-being, depressive symptoms, and neuroticism.
Alexis Frazier-Wood, one of the researchers at Baylor College Texas, told Medical News Today that there were three genetic variants associated with how happy a person thinks or feels about their life, two associated with depressive symptoms, and 11 when it came to being neurotic.
So how did they do it? Researchers defined their well-being by surveying the participants’ general happiness, life satisfaction, and outlook on life.
But it’s not just a case of nature over nurture. The researchers suggest that one’s environment and how it interacts with genes is just as important.
So while their work still doesn’t warrant the defence, “I’m just not a very positive person,” it may help us understand why people are more predisposed to becoming depressed.
Professor and senior collaborator Elina Hyponnen said to News.com.au that although genetic links may not be the most intrinsic to our happiness, they may affect our ability to respond to the experiences we do have.
“However, an interesting area for further study relates to the investigation of the joint effects of genes and environment, and it is very possible that genetic variants have a stronger role in modifying our responses to life-experiences,” she said.
The bottom line? Possessing more of a happy gene is not the be-all and end-all, but it may make it easier for you to bounce back from life’s little trials.
But it’s still not enough to justify those #100HappyDays posts. You know who you are.