On one hand, there are simple pleasures, like an ice cream cone, or a beautiful view, or a warm pair of socks. Then there’s also those pleasures that lean toward vice: intense payoff activities that flood the brain with feel-good chemicals. (Think “sex, drugs and rock & roll”.)
Hedonic well-being is a person’s subjective assessment of whether they are getting enough pleasure on a day-to-day basis. Here, we are not concerned with morality. We want to know: is there any genetic basis to hedonic well-being? The answer is: yes…and you can find out if you have these traits with a Genomelink report.
A 2018 study identified six gene loci (identifiable sections of your DNA) that correlate with hedonic well-being. Among this large study population, the same people who reported that enough pleasure also tended to have these genes. Why do we care? Because happiness is what everyone wants, and genetic science has made serious inroads into decrypting our source code, a.k.a. DNA. The more you understand your own genetic endowment, the better your chances of making the best life decisions for your happiness and overall health.
The upshot of the 2018 study is that there are specific loci in our genes that can be tied to intangible qualities and conditions like “hedonic well-being”. Correlation is not the same as causation…but it’s still rather incredible that genetic scientists have gotten this far in the first place!
It was only 150 years ago that a reclusive monk named Mendel discovered recessive genes while studying pea plants. Until that point, no one could explain how two brown-eyed people could have a blue-eyed child. Today, genetic science is unpacking the programming of our very essences, i.e., the things that “make us tick”. The pursuit of happiness is a human universal…and for the first time, we are seeing increasing evidence of genetic determinacy.
Hedonic well-being is one type of happiness. There is also Eudaimonic well-being (and arguably others beyond the scope of this discussion).
· Eudaimonia is the happiness that comes from satisfaction and fulfillment over time.
· Hedonia is the form of happiness associated with feeling pleasure in the moment.
One of the challenges for genetic scientists is that there seems to be a lot of overlap in the genes that cause both types of happiness. While this confirms that scientists are, indeed, looking at the “happiness genes”, it also complicates the question of causation. This is true for all genetic science. With perhaps 100,000 genetic traits in humans (the number is very rough – scientists are still unlocking new traits every day), it’s important to see that our phenotype (our physical traits) always represent an interplay of our genetic traits.
Your DNA can reveal your propensity to hedonic well-being….as well as myriad related traits.
For example, when looking at the genetic markers for happiness, we might also consider those that correspond to depression. Since genetic science has made great advances in discovering genetic markers for depression, it would make sense to cross-reference these two traits.f
You can obtain an analysis of these and dozens of other traits from Genomelink. You don’t have to be a scientist: we explain what science can tell us about your DNA based on the very latest genetic findings.