The Genetic Overlap and Distinctiveness of Flourishing and the Big Five Personality Traits
The growing evidence that subjective well-being (SWB) produces an array of beneficial outcomes has increased requests for recommendations on how to promote it. Evidence that all of SWB’s genetic variance overlaps with personality led to the strong claim that it is a ‘personality thing’ and that personality is the strongest predictor of SWB. However, studies do not include a comprehensive assessment that reflects eudaimonic as well as hedonic SWB. We revisit the question of SWB’s complete overlap with personality employing the tripartite model—emotional, psychological, and social—of SWB that, together, reflect Keyes’ (2002) model of flourishing. Data are from the Midlife in the United States national sample of 1,386 twins. Analyses were done using Mx to test Cholesky decomposition models and a two latent factor common pathway model. One-third of the total (72 %) heritability of flourishing and 40 % of its environmental variability are distinct from the big-five personality traits. We also find a low phenotypic association (mean r = .22) between the three dimensions of SWB and big-five personality traits despite substantial shared genetic etiology. In addition to non-trivial amounts of distinctive genetic and environmental variance and low phenotypic correlation, we point to limited investigation of reciprocal causation of SWB and personality. Psychologist should not yet conclude that SWB is a ‘personality thing’ anymore than personality might be a ‘well-being thing’.
KeywordsSubjective well-being Happiness Flourishing Eudaimonia Personality Big five traits
This research was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Midlife Development (MIDMAC Director, Dr. Orville Gilbert Brim).
- Carey, G. (Ed.). (2003). Human genetics for the social sciences (Vol. 4). Sage.Google Scholar
- Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. (2012). World happiness report. New York: Earth Institute, Columbia University.Google Scholar
- Joshanloo, M., Wissing, M. P., Khumalo, I. P., &. Lamers, S. M. A. (2013). Measurement invariance of the Mental Health Continuum-Short Form (MHC-SF) across three cultural groups. Personality and Individual Differences, 55(7), 755–759. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886913002456.
- Kahneman, D., Diener, E., & Schwarz, N. (Eds.). (2003). Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
- Kendler, K. S., & Prescott, C. A. (2006). Genes, environment, and psychopathology: Understanding the causes of psychiatric and substance use disorders. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Keyes, C. L. (2002). The mental health continuum: From languishing to flourishing in life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 207–222.Google Scholar
- Layard, R. (2005). Happiness: Lesson from a new science. London: Allen Lane.Google Scholar
- Neale, M. C., Boker, S. M., Xie, G., & Maes, H. H. (2003). Mx: Statistical modeling (6th edition). Dept. of Psychiatry, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical School: Box 980126, Richmond VA 23298.Google Scholar
- Prescott, C. A., & Gottesman, I. I. (1993). Genetically mediated vulnerability to schizophrenia. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 16, 245–267.Google Scholar
- Schmutte, P. S., & Ryff, C. D. (1997). Personality and well-being: Reexamining methods and meanings. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(3), 549.Google Scholar