Danish DNA May be Key to Happiness: Why Denmark is So Happy

First Posted: Jul 18, 2014 08:01 AM EDT

Could Danish DNA be the key to happiness? Scientists have found that genetics could hold the clue as to why the people of Denmark are generally happier.

Each year, various surveys and polls measure how happy a country is. Yet some countries, such as Denmark, wind up at the top of the world happiness rankings year after year. Intrigued by this, researchers wanted to test whether genetics could partially be to blame.

First, the scientists used data on 131 countries from a number of international surveys, including the Gallup World Poll, World Value Survey and the European Quality of Life Surveys. The researchers then linked cross-national data on genetic distance and well-being.

"The results were surprising, we found that the greater a nation's genetic distance from Denmark, the lower the reported wellbeing of that nation," said Eugenio Proto, one of the researchers, in a news release. "Our research adjusts for many other influences including Gross Domestic Product, culture, religion and the strength of the welfare state and geography."

The researchers also looked at other studies that suggested an association between mental wellbeing and a mutation of the gene that influences the reuptake of serotonin, which is believed to be linked to human mood. Scientists found that among the 30 nations included in the study, Denmark and the Netherlands had the highest percentage of people with the long variant of the gene, which is associated to higher life satisfaction.

"This study has used three kinds of evidence and, contrary to our own assumptions when we began the project, it seems there are reasons to believe that genetic patterns may help researchers to understand international well-being levels," said Andrew Oswald, one of the researchers. "More research in the area is now needed and economists and social scientists may need to pay greater heed to the role of genetic variation across national populations."

The working paper can be found online here.

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