Thursday, May 5, 2011

Scientists Identify Happiness Gene

What your whole life looks like under a microscope.
From KQED.
TGDaily reports that researchers have found a gene that controls the flow of serotonin to the brain, which in turn affects overall life satisfaction. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve of the London School of Economics and Political Science conducted the study, wherein he examined genetic data from 2,500 participants of the US National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. De Neve specifically looked for variations of the 5-HTT gene.

This gene can have long or short variations, with the long forms being more efficient and therefore able to create more serotonin transporters in cell membranes. When De Neve's team looked at how satisfied participants were with their lives on a five-point scale (very satisfied, satisfied, dissatisfied, very dissatisfied, or none of the above), they found that a whopping 70% of those with the efficient 5-HTT gene variation (long-long) were either very satisfied or satisfied, compared with just 19% of those with the inefficient version (short-short). Possessing even one long version of the gene allele can increase one's likelihood of being "very satisfied" by 8.5%.

Happiness has long been known to have a genetic component (such as in the work of Sonja Lyubomirsky, who says that happiness is 50% genetic), but this may be the first study to show a clear link between one single gene and life satisfaction. De Neve explains, "It has long been suspected that this gene plays a role in mental health but this is the first study to show that it is instrumental in shaping our individual happiness levels." While other genes may also have a role in happiness, De Neve says, "This finding helps to explain why we each have a unique baseline level of happiness and why some people tend to be naturally happier than others."


  1. Now we need to come up with a way to increase the amount of those longer guys or make the short ones grow!

  2. Hmm, well apparently Blogger was down for awhile so I couldn't reply, and now it looks like some comments and posts were deleted/lost. I don't know what's going on, but I'll reply to Julia's comment anyway (in case it comes back or something).

    Anyway, finding a way to grow longer alleles would be pretty amazing! I don't know if that's possible, but I'd imagine it would help a lot of people with a lot of different problems.