Tags: happiness | gene | women

Is Happiness Genetic?

Thursday, 30 August 2012 01:38 PM

Scientists have discovered what they are describing as a “happiness gene.” But – sorry guys – it only appears to predict feelings of well-being in women.
A team of researchers – from the University of South Florida, the National Institutes of Health, Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute Study – reported that women who have reduced activity in the so-called MAOA gene (short for monoamine oxidase A) report higher levels of happiness.
The researchers, who detailed their findings in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry, said the MAOA gene regulates the activity of an enzyme that breaks down serontin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain – the same "feel-good" chemicals targeted by many antidepressants. “Low expression” of the MAOA gene promotes higher levels of monoamine, which allows larger amounts of these neurotransmitters to stay in the brain and boost mood, researchers said.
"This is the first happiness gene for women," said lead researcher Dr. Henian Chen, an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the USF College of Public Health.
"I was surprised by the result, because low expression of MAOA has been related to some negative outcomes like alcoholism, aggressiveness and antisocial behavior. It's even called the warrior gene by some scientists, but, at least for women, our study points to a brighter side of this gene…. This new finding may help us to explain the gender difference [in happiness] and provide more insight into the link between specific genes and human happiness."
To reach their conclusions, Chen and colleagues analyzed data from 345 individuals – 193 women and 152 men – whose DNA was checked for MAOA gene variation. Study participants were also surveyed about their overall happiness.
After accounting for various factors, the researchers found that women with the low-expression type of MAOA were significantly happier than others. While many men carried a copy of the "happy" version of the MAOA gene, they reported no greater feelings of happiness than those without it.
The researchers suspect the gender gap may be due to men’s higher levels of testosterone, which may cancel out the positive effect of MAOA on happiness.
Chen emphasized that happiness is not entirely determined by a single gene, but noted a series of genes may, along with life experiences, influence how happy a person feels.
"I think the time is right for more genetic studies that focus on well-being and happiness," Chen said. "Certainly it could be argued that how well-being is enhanced deserves at least as much attention as how [mental] disorders arise; however, such knowledge remains limited."

© HealthDay

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Scientists have discovered what they are describing as a 'happiness gene' in women.
Thursday, 30 August 2012 01:38 PM
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