Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 369–381

Happiness in Behaviour Genetics: Findings and Implications


DOI: 10.1007/s10902-009-9145-6

Cite this article as:
Nes, R.B. J Happiness Stud (2010) 11: 369. doi:10.1007/s10902-009-9145-6


A number of behaviour genetic studies have shown variation in happiness to be influenced by genes, and indicated that long-term happiness is predominantly caused by genes. To policy makers and individuals, as well as the psychological and psychiatric enterprise, evidence for considerable and stable genetic contributions suggests that societal changes, therapeutic interventions, and public prevention may produce mainly transitory or minor effects. This is not true. The present paper aims to summarise the recent behaviour genetic findings on happiness and happiness-related constructs and to discuss their theoretical and practical implications. Specifically, five major implications relevant to public health work, are outlined and broadly discussed: (1) high heritability does not limit chances for raising happiness, (2) genes generate stability, (3) environments generate change, (4) environmental influences operate on an individual-by-individual basis, and (5) control for genetic endowments is necessary for correct measures of environmental effects.


HappinessSubjective well-beingLife satisfactionBehaviour geneticsHeritabilityTwin research

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Mental HealthNorwegian Institute of Public HealthNydalen, OsloNorway