Genes have been in control of human traits since humans have been a species. However, what genes control beyond physical traits is not as well known. Therefore this prompts the question to what extent genes affect happiness. This question is becoming more prevalent with the rise in genetic editing and what could be done with genetic engineering to further push the human race. This question ties into the stimulus material “Genes, Economics, and Happiness” which goes into depth about genes and their links to happiness in ways such as money and social class. Genes Economics and Happiness also talks about DNA strands that are the direct cause of happiness and whether or not scientists have the technology to determine what exact genes affect human emotions. Another study shows that genes play a major role in the regulation of your own brain's serotonin and dopamine levels(Ebstein et al 1996; Hamer 1996) which could prove that genes could not only affect your happiness directly but indirectly as well. Serotonin is one of the chemicals in the brain that is linked to overall happiness and well-being in a person(Medical News Today). But as genes have been studied to affect a person's happiness it has also been stated that genes can cause depression or lower happiness levels as well( Dennis S. Charney). This question has been looked at from many perspectives/lenses such as economic, social, medical, and scientific with different arguments following suit mainly about how much genes affect an individual's happiness. The exact amount genes play in one’s personality is still unknown and the main argument is how much do genes affect a person's happiness and life evaluation. This question has been answered in many different ways but the one thing that is hard to have a solid standpoint on is what gene exactly affects happiness and how much genes really play in one's happiness.
From a medical perspective, the exact amount genes play into one's happiness is unknown but one of the more widespread ideologies is the 50-10-40% formula(Sonja Lyubomirksy). Which states that 50% of how happy you are is genetics, 10% is your state of mind, and the last 40% is one's environment. This formula shows how much of your happiness is believed to be inherited or predetermined by one's genetics which relates to the philosophy of “Genes. Economics, and Happiness” in the fact that genes do play a role in happiness but differ in their findings and motives with genes economics and happiness not finding the exact gene that effects happiness but narrowing down by a sizable amount. The article also states that it is believed that at the very least genes play at least a 33% role in one's happiness and very well could be higher but they do not believe that it could be lower. This is not always true as for some individuals the environment may play more of a role in one's attitude or play less of a role but this scale is the most widespread. Although immense amounts of research have been done on how genes affect a person's happiness or life satisfaction etc. Studies also show genes affect people's anger and tolerance levels as well. In a study done by Yinghui Guo, Huiyun Zhang, Jie Gao Sheng, Wei Chunhong, SongPeng, and Sun Mingqi Qiao they studied rats' behaviors and how they reacted to certain events. The study found multiple genes that were linked to depression, anger management, and irritability(yinghui Guo) meaning that genes may play a lot larger roles in how people obtain their emotions and behaviors. These all show how genes can directly affect a person's emotions whether it's in a positive aspect like being overall happier.
From an economic perspective, genes do affect your socioeconomic status which in turn could affect a person's life satisfaction and or happiness overall. One of the biggest genetic studies in recent years was done by a group of Harvard economists(New York Times) This group's goal was to find out how successful a person could be just from someone's genes. The study had a ranking system that ranked people’s chances at success on a scale with the top of the rankings having a 57 percent chance at graduating with a bachelor's degree and the bottom of the scale having a 12 Percent chance at graduation with a bachelor degree ( Ward, Jacob). Having any form of a college degree more than doubles one's odds of obtaining a job as well as increases the chance of obtaining a high-paying job(Napach Bernice), a high-paying job is considered to be $65,000 yearly(USA Today). This ties into people becoming poverty-struck when unable to find a job due to not having a steady income or simply not making enough money although working full time. A study states “In conclusion of this study they’ve found that there is an indirect effect on happiness because people with higher income levels do have a higher probability of finding employment and report higher levels of happiness.” It also is very difficult to escape poverty with only 56% getting out after one year(Stevens Ann) and after 7 years a 17% chance to escape poverty. This ties into happiness because people who are in poverty seem to exert lower happiness levels and overall less energy. The stimulus material “Genes, Economics and Happiness” also talks about economics and genes, mainly discussing the happiness gene but also talks about the income of the people they selected for the study. However, some studies have directly linked income to genes. But whether genes affect one's income directly is a controversial topic because of all the different things that could affect it like what kind of environment you are born into, what kind of diseases you are born with, how much your parents influence your life, etc. However, some studies have concluded genes do affect one's income in a direct manner and make some people more likely to just make less money solely from their genes alone. An example of this is a study done by Jay Gould he believed that some countries were in a poverty state because of the citizen's genetic makeup. This study however came under heavy fire due to the fact that many found it to be racist and genetic determinism. However, some people believe this paper to be very valuable to the opening of the now very popular study of genes and how they affect people on a more important level.
Genes do not only control how happy you are but how you obtain happiness as well. In the stimulus material “The Happiness Project” the author talks about how he is happy because his daughter was happy when he took her to Disneyland. Nations that have a certain allele in the fatty acid amide hydrolase state that they perceive things in a happier state of mind and overall believe themselves to be happier than others(Springer). According to a study done by WebMD, it states” People with a gene variation including one or two A’s were found to have less optimism, mastery, and self-esteem, and more symptoms of depression than people with a variation including two G's.” Studies have also found that genes can affect whether or not a person is optimistic or pessimistic(Mann Denise). This in turn can affect a person's happiness because it is proven that people who are optimistic tend to be happier and healthier than those who are not (LoveEquals). This applies to people who are pessimistic as well meaning that pessimistic people tend to be unhappier because of the negative outlook they have on life. One may argue that being pessimistic or optimistic does not necessarily determine a person's attitude or personality and this statement is true but people who have these personalities are more often than not going to fall into being unhappier or happier.
Lastly not only do genes affect our happiness but life evaluation as well. In the stimulus material “High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being”, Life evaluation refers to the thoughts that people have about their life when they think about it. Since genes have been shown to affect a person's income this in turn affects a person's life evaluation as well. The stimulus material “High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being” talks about how income can make people evaluate their lives in a more positive light. However, having a higher income does not show any improvement in a person's well-being consistently. Though some may say this all depends on a person's situation and how much money means to them during a certain period of time the study used people from many different ranges of income. Life evaluation is not only affected by happiness but is indirectly affected by it in many ways. Some forms are Marriage, Income, Family, and Environment which all are not exactly happiness but can contribute to a person's happiness or make a person not as happy as well. Environment plays one of the biggest roles in one life evaluation because of how some people perceive money. If a rich person acquires something they don't need they will acquire as much happiness as someone who is not as rich when they acquire something that they do need like a car or something like that.
In conclusion, Genes do affect a person's happiness in many different ways, whether it's how they feel happiness, how happy in general a person is, how they look at life, or just how happy they feel as an individual. With the rising popularity of genetic editing a possible outcome of discovering the “happiness gene” could be directly editing this gene making the world an overall happier place. This doesn’t necessarily mean making everyone experience only what’s considered happy emotions, however, if the world became overall more happy then it would make it a better place making things such as war and conflict a lot less likely. Another outcome of determining what gene makes people happy is it makes medication more easily personalized. For example, if your child is born without inheriting certain happiness genes they may be more susceptible to being depressed or suicidal making it easier for doctors to get Medicine to the children who need it faster and more consistently. However, since this is all in theory it is unknown how long or how accurate this method could be. So a child could be incorrectly prescribed medicine and this could lead to many problems for a child's mental and physical health. Overall further funding and time should be put into researching genes as the benefits from locating what genes make people happy to what extent they do to help further the understanding of the genetics of humans and how to further advance it.
- Charney, Dennis S., and Husseini K. Manji. “Life Stress, Genes, and Depression: Multiple Pathways Lead to Increased Risk and New Opportunities for Intervention.” Science Signaling, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 23 Mar. 2004, stke.sciencemag.org/content/2004/225/re5.abstract.
- De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel, et al. “Genes, Economics, and Happiness.” Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3858957/.
- “Genes May Contribute to Making Some Nations Happier than Others.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 14 Jan. 2016, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160114113520.htm.
- Guo, et al. “Study of Genes Associated with the 'Anger-in' and 'Anger-out' Emotions of Humans Using a Rat Model.” Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, Spandidos Publications, 1 Apr. 2015, www.spandidos-publications.com/etm/9/4/1448.
- Kahneman, Daniel. Does Money Buy Happiness? Sept. 2010, wws.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/content/docs/news/Happiness_Money_Summary.pdf.
- “Transitions into & out of Poverty in the United States.” UC Davis Center for Poverty Research, poverty.ucdavis.edu/policy-brief/transitions-out-poverty-united-states.
- Springer. “Genes May Contribute to Making Some Nations Happier than Others.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 14 Jan. 2016, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160114113520.htm.
- Stevens, Ann. “Transitions into & out of Poverty in the United States.” UC Davis Center for Poverty Research, poverty.ucdavis.edu/policy-brief/transitions-out-poverty-united-states.
- Ward, Jacob. “The 'Geno-Economists' Say DNA Can Predict Our Chances of Success.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Nov. 2018, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/16/magazine/tech-design-economics-genes.html.