Scientists have found a difference in genetic expression of a specific enzyme that is involved in anxiety and neuroticism.
It might be a little alarming to think that your future happiness might have been predetermined at birth. But even if you’ve never had the chance to indulge in some of this world’s greatest pleasures like chicken parmesan or the White Album, there might be some evidence that certain people are predisposed to ‘happy’ traits. Researchers have found that in Latin American countries like Columbia, Mexico and Peru, and African countries such as Burkina Faso and Ghana. The researchers reported a highly negative correlation between the average percentage of “very happy” people and the prevalence of the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) A allele for the gene known as rs324420. High expression of this gene has been shown to correlate to a low level of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), an enzyme that degrades anandamide (a brain cannabinoid that reduces anxiety, suppresses pain and enhances sensory pleasure). It makes sense, then, that if a population has a lot of individuals who express an enzyme that degrades anandamide more than other groups, they will experience less ‘happiness’, all other factors set aside.
This is both exciting while also frightening because the thought of having a predisposition toward ‘happiness’ is not something you’d want to miss out on. However, the authors do acknowledge that they have only scratched the surface of understanding how genes, enzymes, and neurotransmitters actually interact in the body. Their approach to arrive at a definition of happiness considered the World Values Survey (WVS), socioeconomic factors, and climatic factors. However, despite all their attempts at controlling for cultural and environmental factors, a scientific study such as this naturally neglects some non-scientific aspects related to happiness.
Michael Minkov, Michael Harris Bond. A Genetic Component to National Differences in Happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 2016;
Written by Adam Betel