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CEP discussion paper

Genes, Economics and Happiness


A major finding from research into the sources of subjective well-being is that individuals exhibit a “baseline” level of happiness. We explore the influence of genetic variation by employing a twin design and genetic association study. We first show that about 33% of the variation in happiness is explained by genes. Next, using two independent data sources, we present evidence that individuals with a transcriptionally more efficient version of the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4) report significantly higher levels of life satisfaction. These results are the first to identify a specific gene that is associated with happiness and suggest that behavioral models benefit from integrating genetic variation.


Nicholas A. Christakis, Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, James H. Fowler and Bruno S. Frey

24 February 2012     Paper Number CEPDP1127

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This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's Community Wellbeing programme.

This publication comes under the following theme: Causes and effects of wellbeing