Do we experience happiness and depression in the same way? A new study published in Nature Genetics says that there are differences, and these are the result of genetics.
Specific parts of the human genome might be the reason behind the individual differences in experiencing happiness; previous research has shown that genetic differences might account for the differences from person to person.
Researchers from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam have isolated 3 genetic variants (variation in DNA sequences) for happiness, and 2 for depression. This is the first time such a feat has been accomplished.
In the words of VU Amsterdam professor Meike Bartels, one of the study authors, the research is a “milestone and a new beginning“. He has thus described their findings because they have confirmed that happiness does have a genetic element, and they suspect that many more variants are at play. A goal stemming from this study is to identify the other variants that are possibly involved, with implications regarding the interlinks between nature and nurture.
According to the findings, the expression of the genetic variants for happiness is mainly concentrated in the central nervous system, adrenal glands, and pancreas. Furthermore, finding a genetic overlap involving symptoms of depression is considered to be another major development made possible by this study because it indicates that studies pertaining to happiness might be used to better understand depression, a condition that has remained evasive to experts.