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Melancholy Danes? Not So Much, And Genetics May Show Why

By Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on July 19, 2014
Melancholy Danes? Not So Much, And Genetics May Show Why

Genetics could be the reason why Denmark tops the world in happiness, according to research from the University of Warwick.

Economists at the university have been investigating why certain countries rank so high in happiness levels. In particular, they discovered that the closer a nation is to the genetic makeup of Denmark, the happier that country is.

The findings could help explain why a country like Denmark so regularly tops the world happiness rankings.

The researchers used data on 131 countries from a number of international surveys including the Gallup World Poll, World Value Survey, and the European Quality of Life Surveys, and then they linked cross-national data on genetic distance and well-being.

“The results were surprising, we found that the greater a nation’s genetic distance from Denmark, the lower the reported wellbeing of that nation. Our research adjusts for many other influences including Gross Domestic Product, culture, religion, and the strength of the welfare state and geography,” said Dr. Eugenio Proto.

The researchers also looked at existing studies suggesting a connection between mental wellbeing and a mutation of the gene that influences the reuptake of serotonin, which is believed to be linked to human mood.

“We looked at existing research which suggested that the long and short variants of this gene are correlated with different probabilities of clinical depression, although this link is still highly debated,” said Proto. “The short version has been associated with higher scores on neuroticism and lower life satisfaction.

“Intriguingly, among the 30 nations included in the study, it is Denmark and the Netherlands that appear to have the lowest percentage of people with this short version.”

Finally, researchers also looked at whether the link between genetics and happiness also held true across generations, continents, and the Atlantic Ocean.

“We used data on the reported wellbeing of Americans and then looked at which part of the world their ancestors had come from. The evidence revealed that there is an unexplained positive correlation between the happiness today of some nations and the observed happiness of Americans whose ancestors came from these nations, even after controlling for personal income and religion,” said Dr. Andrew Oswald.

“This study has used three kinds of evidence and, contrary to our own assumptions when we began the project, it seems there are reasons to believe that genetic patterns may help researchers to understand international well-being levels,” said Oswald.

“More research in this area is now needed and economists and social scientists may need to pay greater heed to the role of genetic variation across national populations.”

Source: University of Warwick

 

Abstract of person and genetics photo by shutterstock.

 

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2014). Melancholy Danes? Not So Much, And Genetics May Show Why. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/07/19/melancholy-danes-not-so-much-and-genetics-may-show-why/72690.html