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Genes, depression and life satisfaction
Date:10/25/2012

Vulnerability to major depression is linked with how satisfied we are with our lives. This association is largely due to genes.

This is the main finding of a new twin study from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in collaboration with the University of Oslo. The researchers compared longitudinal information from identical and fraternal twins to determine how vulnerability to major depression is associated with dispositional (overall) lifetime satisfaction.

Previous studies have systematically shown that life satisfaction is considerably stable over time. People who are satisfied at any one point in life are often also satisfied at other times in their lives. This stabilitythe dispositional life satisfactionis often said to reflect an underlying positive mood or a positive disposition. Previous studies have also shown that people with such a positive disposition are less depressed, but very few studies have examined the mechanisms behind this relationship.

Results

  • Both men and women who met the criteria for lifetime major depression (15.8% and 11.1% respectively) reported lower life satisfaction.

  • 74% of the relationship between major depression and life satisfaction could be explained by genes.

  • The remaining association (26%) could be explained by unique environmental factors.

  • The researchers also calculated the heritability of dispositional life satisfaction and major depression separately. The heritability of dispositional life satisfaction, which has not previously been reported, was estimated to be 72%. In other words, it is largely genes that explain why we differ in our tendency to be satisfied and content with our lives.

  • Major depression had a heritability of 34%, which is highly consistent with previous studies.

"The stable tendency to see the bright side of life is associated with lower risk of major depression because some genetic fa
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Contact: Rebecca Bruu Carver
rebecca.bruu.carver@fhi.no
Norwegian Institute of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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