You, like me, must have a few Debbie Downers in your life. Tell me I’m not the only one with friends who — while possibly trying to be well-meaning — seem constantly fraught with worry or anger and generally tip their views towards the downside of life.
While Dr. Henian Chen, USF’s associate professor of biostatistics, and the study’s lead researcher notes, that plenty of work has been done examining gender and happiness, this particular bit of research focused on the specific gene (MAOA). As Dr. Chen notes, low levels of the gene is connected with higher levels of happiness in women.
Anne DeLotto Baier, director of public affairs at USF Health, clarifies the study further in her blog saying “They zeroed in on monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) – the gene that helps regulate how ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine are broken down in the brain. The greater the presence of the gene, the faster these chemicals are cleared out of the brain. Lower levels of the gene means more of the ‘feel good’ chemicals stay in the brain longer, boosting mood.”
Interestingly, while Dr. Chen does report that up to 33 percent of men do have a copy of the gene, they don’t report any more happiness in men who don’t have it. And this is where testosterone could play a role: “Our data shows that the happiness scores are almost the same between men with and without [the gene],” notes Dr. Chen. Essentially, men’s higher levels of testosterone could suppress the levels of the gene, giving women the happier upper hand.
He also notes that containing low levels of this gene doesn’t guarantee a Debbie Downer-free life. “There are many things related to our happiness such as income, marital status, employment status, education, age, religiosity, relationship, health and more,” he notes. He also says that while many of these other areas of happiness are being researched, it’s critical to continue to look at how genetics play a role in the happiness we have.
In the meantime, have a look at Debbie in one of her happier moments…
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