Those with two sets of the gene—one from each parent—are almost twice as likely to say they are satisfied with life, compared to those who lack a copy.
The gene, called 5-HTT, is 1)responsible for how well 2)nerve cells manage to 3)distribute 4)serotonin, a chemical produced by the 5)pineal gland in the brain which helps control mood.
People with low levels of serotonin—itself nicknamed the “happiness drug”—are more likely to be depressed.
Now, 6)behavioural economists at the London School of Economic and Political Science have found evidence that people with the “7)functional” 8)variant of the 5-HTT gene tend to lead happier lives.
Jan-Emmanuel De Neve and colleagues asked more than 2,500 people in the US about how satisfied they were with life, and also 9)analysed their DNA for presence of the gene.
The “long” version of the gene leads to more serotonin transporters in these walls, the “short” version less of them.
As we 11)inherit a set of genes from both parents, the possible combinations of this are “long-long,” “long-short” or “short-short.”
The results showed that a much higher 12)proportion of those with the efficient (long-long) version of the gene were either very satisfied (35%) or satisfied (34%) with their life—compared to 19% in both categories for those with the less efficient (short-short) form.
The study is published in the Journal of Human Genetics.
Mr. De Neve said: “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 important in shaping our individual happiness levels.
“The results of our study suggest a strong link between happiness and this functional variation in the 5-HTT gene.
“Of course, our 13)well-being isn’t determined by this one gene—other genes and especially experience throughout the course of life will continue to explain the majority of variation in individual happiness.
“But this finding helps to explain why we each have a unique 14)baseline level of happiness and why some people tend to be naturally happier than others, and that’s in no small part due to our individual genetic make-up.”