Emotions

What factor accounts for half of human happiness?
Answered by Discovery Fit & Health
  • Discovery Fit & Health

    Discovery Fit & Health

  1. Who doesn't like to be happy? Few would argue, after all, that sadness is the preferable human condition (actually, would anyone argue that?). But what accounts for happiness? It's a more complicated question than it seems, because first you have to try to define happiness, which is impossible, because the word means different things to different people. For some, money is the source of all happiness; for others, love; and for still others peace of mind -- regardless of one's financial or romantic status -- may be the pinnacle of happiness. And those are just a few of the things in which our species finds what it calls "happiness."

    It turns out, though, that while all of the above, and more, may account for happiness, there may also be a capacity for the mental state that is heritable. Happiness might just be in our DNA, at least that's what some studies hint at in their findings. One study looked at 1,000 pairs of adolescent twins and found somewhere around 33 percent of different peoples' happiness was heritable. Another study done in London tried to get a closer look at what particular genes might be responsible for trying to pass on happiness. The researchers targeted a gene that's in charge of shuttling serotonin messages in the body. Serotonin is important to mood regulation, so genes that help it work optimally are important when you're trying to find genetic happiness clues. People have two alleles (or versions) of the serotonin-transporter gene -- two short and two long alleles, or one of each. The long alleles pack a bigger serotonin-transport punch, and the study found that adolescents with two long alleles were 17 percent more likely to describe themselves as "very satisfied" than those who didn't have any long alleles. Similarly, those with one long allele were 8 percent more likely to achieve that level of satisfaction [source: The Economist].

    So, who knows? Perhaps some of us are a bit more hard-wired for happiness than others, and while such  studies don't conclusively answer what accounts for "half of" human happiness, maybe one day we'll know for certain what accounts for 33 percent.

    More answers from Discovery Fit & Health »



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