Hap­pi­ness genes lo­cated for the first time

Pakistan Observer - - KARACHI CITY -

Ahuge study in­volv­ing over 190 re searchers in 140 re­search cen­ters in 17 coun­tries has lo­cated ge­netic vari­ants as­so­ci­ated with hap­pi­ness and other traits. It is one of the largest stud­ies ever pub­lished on genes in­volved in hu­man be­hav­ior. Re­searchers have lo­cated ge­netic vari­ants as­so­ci­ated with sub­jec­tive well-be­ing how happy a per­son thinks or feels about his or her life.

In the jour­nal Na­ture, the in­ter­na­tional team de­scribes how it an­a­lyzed ge­nomic data from hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple to find ge­netic vari­ants as­so­ci­ated with our feel­ings of well-be­ing, de­pres­sion and neu­roti­cism.

One of the re­searchers, Alexis Fra­zier-Wood, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of pe­di­atrics and nutri­tion at Bay­lor Col­lege of Medicine, Houston, TX, says:

“We re­port that we found three ge­netic vari­ants as­so­ci­ated with sub­jec­tive well­be­ing - 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.”

The team also found that the gene vari­ants are mainly ex­pressed in cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem and adrenal or pan­creas tis­sues. For the study, the team car­ried out a meta-anal­y­sis - that is, they brought to­gether ge­nomic data from many other stud­ies - and used ad­vanced sta­tis­ti­cal tools to an­a­lyze the pooled data as if it came from one huge study of 298,000 peo­ple.

Study­ing genes may help un­der­stand pre­dis­po­si­tions

Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have sug­gested that in­di­vid­ual dif­fer­ences in hap­pi­ness and well-be­ing might be linked to ge­netic dif­fer­ences be­tween peo­ple. There is in­creas­ing in­ter­est in the topic as grow­ing ev­i­dence sug­gests well-be­ing is a fac­tor in both men­tal and phys­i­cal health. How­ever, the re­searchers warn that genes are not the whole story when it comes to de­ter­min­ing how peo­ple think and feel about their lives. They ex­plain that the en­vi­ron­ment, and how it in­ter­acts with genes, is just as im­por­tant.

But, study­ing the genes could help us start to un­der­stand why some peo­ple might be bi­o­log­i­cally pre­dis­posed to de­velop th­ese symp­toms, they note.The re­searchers also hope the find­ings, which are avail­able for fol­low-up re­search, will help to clar­ify the pic­ture of what causes dif­fer­ences in hap­pi­ness. They see this break­through dis­cov­ery as just the be­gin­ning and be­lieve the vari­ants they have lo­cated are but a small frac­tion of what is wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered. “The ge­netic over­lap with de­pres­sive symp­toms that we have found is also a break­through. This shows that re­search into hap­pi­ness can also of­fer new in­sights into the causes of one of the great­est med­i­cal chal­lenges of our time: de­pres­sion.”

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