How happiness affects your genes
Did you know there are two kinds of happiness—and one is better for your genes?
Researchers at UCLA and the University of North Carolina say the way people seek happiness has a direct effect on their genes.
Study leaders found that people who had high levels of “eudaimonic well-being,” or the type of joy that emanates from having a purpose in life and helping others, had “very favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells,” which leads to better health overall.
On the other hand, those whose happiness came from self-gratification or “hedonic well-being,” had negative gene expression.
“What this study tells us is that doing good and feeling good have very different effects on the human genome, even though they generate similar levels of positive emotion,” said study leader Steven Cole, in a news release.
Scientists evaluated 80 healthy adults using survey questions about their motivation for happiness and also analyzed blood samples in making the comparisons.
Cole and his team of scientists have been studying how the human genome reacts to negative psychological events for the past 10 years. This current study looked at how the genome responds to positive stimulus.
The results align with other studies that show selflessness is not only good for the soul; it’s good for the body too.
According to another recent study, older adults who spend time doing volunteer work lower their risk of high blood pressure. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University interviewed 1,100 American adults between the ages of 51 and 91. The participants were interviewed once in 2006 and again in 2010. All subjects had normal blood pressure levels at the time of the first interview. They were also asked about their volunteer efforts and other social and psychological factors.
The results showed that those who reported at least 200 hours of volunteer work during the initial interview were 40 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who did not volunteer when evaluated four years later. The specific type of volunteer activity was not a factor – researchers note that only the amount of time spent volunteering led to increased protection from hypertension.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.