In one of the largest studies on the genes involved in human behaviour, a team of over 190 researchers from 140 institutions in 17 countries has found genetic variants associated with our feelings of well-being, depression and neuroticism.
The researchers, however, advise caution when interpreting the results as genetic variants do not determine whether someone develops depressive symptoms, neuroticism or has a poor sense of wellbeing.
“In this paper, 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 Dr Alexis Frazier-Wood, assistant professor of pediatrics and nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.
“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,” explained Dr Frazier-Wood.
How people think and feel about their lives depends on multiple factors, including genes.
“Genetics is only one factor that influences these psychological traits. The environment is at least as important, and it interacts with the genetic effects,” added Dr Daniel Benjamin, associate professor at University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and corresponding author.
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 in a paper published in the journal Nature Genetics.