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CEP Discussion Paper
Molecular Genetics and Subjective Well-Being
Meike Bartels, Daniel J. Benjamin, David Cesarini, Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Magnus Johannesson, Philipp D. Koellinger, Robert F. Krueger, Patrik K. E. Magnusson, Nancy L. Pedersen, Cornelius A. Rietveld and Henning Tiemeier June 2013
Paper No' CEPDP1225:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: D03; D60

Tags: subjective well-being; heritability; genetics; greml

Subjective well-being (SWB) is a major topic of research across the social sciences. Twin and family studies have found that genetic factors may account for as much as 30-40% of the variance in SWB. Here, we study genetic contributions to SWB in a pooled sample of ~11,500 unrelated, comprehensively-genotyped Swedish and Dutch individuals. We apply a recently-developed method to estimate “common narrow heritability”: the fraction of variance in SWB that can be explained by the cumulative additive effects of genetic polymorphisms that are common in the population. Our estimates are 5-10% for single-question survey measures of SWB, and 12-18% after correction for measurement error in the SWB measures. Our results suggest guarded optimism about the prospects of using genetic data in SWB research because, while the common narrow heritability is not large, the polymorphisms that contribute to it could feasibly be discovered with a sufficiently large sample of individuals.