Genes play a role in how people think and feel about their lives, according to a study published online on April 18 in the journal Nature Genetics. A team of researchers have uncovered genetic variants related to one’s feelings of happiness, depression, and neuroticism.

“We report that we found three genetic variants associated with subjective well-being – how happy a person thinks or feels about his or her life,” says Alexis Frazier-Wood, assistant professor of paediatrics and nutrition at the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Centre at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. “We also found two genes harbouring variants associated with depressive symptoms and 11 genes where variation was associated with neuroticism.”

The research team points out that the study does not necessarily mean that these genetic variants alone dictate how someone develops feelings of a poor sense of well-being, neuroticism and depression.  According to the study’s co-author Daniel Benjamin, an associate professor at the Centre for Economic and Social Research at the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, both genetic factors and environmental factors affect human behaviour.

genetic variants

A study reveals genes are linked to happiness, depression and neuroticism. Credit: Pixabay/Pexels

However, they assert that the findings offer additional insight into these conditions. Experts could have a deeper understanding why some individuals have higher chances of developing these feelings than others if the study of genetic variants is taken into account.

The study involved investigating the genomic data of almost 300,000 participants, making it one of the largest exploration into the genes connected with human behaviour. The research team was composed of more than 190 researchers from 140 different institutions from 17 countries.

“In this paper, we applied advanced statistical analyses and a meta-analysed, or combined, result across a large number of studies, which is the most powerful way to conduct this type of genetics research adds Frazier-Wood. “I served as the analyst for one set of data included in the overall results.”