Genetic distance and differences in happiness across nations: some preliminary evidence

Martijn Burger, R Veenhoven, L (Laila) Kakar, Harry Commandeur

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Survey studies worldwide have revealed large differences in happiness, both within and across nations. Many of the within-nation differences have a genetic basis, as twin studies have shown. Is there also a genetic component in the large differences across nations? In this paper, we report an initial exploration of this question in 104 nations. We estimate the relative importance of the genetic component in a bilateral analysis, calculating the correlation between the distance in genetic profile and average happiness, measured as satisfaction with life-as-a-whole. In this analysis, genetic distance explains 8.4% of the variance in cross-national differences in happiness. However, after controlling for cultural, institutional, economic, and geographical differences between countries, the explained variance is significantly reduced. We conclude that the direct effect of genetic distance is probably small.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-158
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Happiness and Well-Being
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Research programs

  • EUR ESE 34


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