Gratitude is a word taught as a child, common among religions, and is the theme of some holidays. But how often do you feel gratitude? How often do you feel appreciative of the people or things around you? Several studies have reported that gratitude is one of the important domains to affect one’s well-being.
Well-being is intensively studied in positive psychology, but many genetic studies have also investigated the genetic factors impacting individual differences in the level of well-being.
Previous studies have demonstrated the role of catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val158Met in response to positive and negative emotional stimuli, a fundamental process involved in well-being. In addition, it has been reported that gratitude predicts subjective well-being ratings, and gratitude training promotes well-being. Considering the causal link between gratitude, well-being, and the knowledge that genetic factors affect behavioral phenotypes through psychological traits, researchers hypothesized that COMT Val158Met might affect well-being through dispositional gratitude.
Researchers explored to what extent the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) Val158Met polymorphism (rs4680) modulates well-being and to what extent dispositional forgiveness mediates the individual differences in well-being. In this study, the Resentment and Appreciation Test (GRAT) was used to assess dispositional gratitude. GRAT is a 44-item questionnaire measuring the extent to which the respondent would not feel deprived in life (the Sense of Abundance subscale), would appreciate the contribution of others to his/her well-being (the Appreciation for Others subscale), and would appreciate the simple things that are readily available to most people (the Simple Appreciation subscale). Participants rated on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree) to indicate their agreements with each item (e.g. “I’m really thankful for friends and family”). As for well-being, three instruments, Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS), Scale of Positive and Negative Experience (SPANE), Flourishing Scale (FS) were used to measure cognitive, affective, and psychological aspects of well-being, respectively. Results showed that individuals with a smaller number of the Met alleles (A alleles), which are associated with higher activity of COMT, reported greater well-being, less depressive symptoms, and greater tendencies toward forgiveness.
Like all candidate gene association studies, the sample size of this study was relatively small, particularly for the male group. As women generally report lower well-being than men, the researchers examined whether the observed genotype effects depended on gender but found a non-significant gene-gender interaction. Despite the limitations, this study demonstrates the contribution of the COMT Val158Met polymorphism to individual differences in well-being.. Read more about the study here:
Are you interested in learning more about your genetic tendency for gratitude? You can log in to your Genomelink YOUR TRAITS to explore this new genetic trait.