Genetic and environmental factors in shaping well-being

Converging evidence suggests that well-being plays an important role in promoting and maintaining mental health across the life span | Aging & Mental Health


Background: It has been shown that well-being has a considerable heritable component, but little is known about the specific genes involved.

Methods: In this study, we investigated a healthy sample (N = 298) that was genotyped for the serotonin transporter-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR). We hypothesized that 5-HTTLPR gene variation would influence well-being, and additionally investigated interaction effects with age and the environmental influence of early life stress (ELS).

Results: Using multiple regression, our results showed a significant three-way interaction between genotype, ELS, and age. Exploration of this interaction showed that young subjects had decreased levels of well-being if they were exposed to ELS and homozygous for the short variant of 5-HTTLPR. This relationship was reversed in old age: subjects that were exposed to ELS and carried the long variant of 5-HTTLPR had decreased levels of well-being.

Conclusion: Our results indicate that genetic and environmental factors have joint effects on well-being that are susceptible to profound changes across the life span.

Full reference: Gärtner, M. et al. (2017) The interplay of genetic and environmental factors in shaping well-being across the lifespan: Evidence from the serotonin transporter gene. Aging & Mental Health. Published online: 7th July 2017