A good state of mind that is, your happiness affects your genes, scientists say. In the first study of its kind, researchers from UCLA's Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and the University of North Carolina examined how positive psychology impacts human gene expression.
What they found is that different types of happiness have surprisingly different effects on the human genome.
People who have high levels of what is known as eudaimonic well-being the kind of happiness that comes from having a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life (think Mother Teresa) showed very favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells. They had low levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong expression of antiviral and antibody genes.
However, people who had relatively high levels of hedonic well-being the type of happiness that comes from consummatory self-gratification (think most celebrities) actually showed just the opposite. They had an adverse expression profile involving high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression.
The report appears in the current online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For the last 10 years, Steven Cole, a UCLA professor of medicine and a member of the UCLA Cousins Center, and his colleagues, including first author Barbara L. Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina, have been examining how the human genome responds to stress, misery, fear and all kinds of negative psychology.
In this study, though, the researchers asked how the human genome might respond to positive psychology. Is it just the opposite of stress and misery, or does positive well-being activate a different kind of gene expression program?
The researchers examined the biological implications of both hedonic and eudaimonic well-being through the lens of the human genome, a system of some 21,000 genes that has evolved
|Contact: Mark Wheeler|
University of California - Los Angeles