Looking to Genes for the Secret to Happiness By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS, in the NY Times magazine.
"According to a team of scientists from the University of North Carolina and the University of California, Los Angeles, 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 (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 (celebrities) — actually showed just the opposite. They had an adverse expression profile involving high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression.
In the new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists asked how the human genome might respond to positive psychology. They 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 fundamentally to help humans survive and be well."
"The scientists drew blood samples from 80 healthy adults who were assessed for hedonic and eudaimonic well-being, as well as potentially confounding negative psychological and behavioral factors. They used the CTRA gene-expression profile to map the potentially distinct biological effects of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being.
“And while those with eudaimonic well-being showed favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells and those with hedonic well-being showed an adverse gene-expression profile, people with high levels of hedonic well-being didn’t feel any worse than those with high levels of eudaimonic well-being,” Prof Cole said."