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Why Is Denmark So Happy? Genes, Study Says

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(credit: Tim Riediger/Getty Images)

(credit: Tim Riediger/Getty Images)

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A new study out of the U.K. claims genetics might determine a country’s collective happiness.

Researchers at the University of Warwick’s Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) found themselves wondering why certain countries repeatedly top the world happiness rankings, so they looked at data from 131 countries from several international surveys, including the Gallup World Poll and the European Quality of Life surveys, and then linked cross-national data on genetic distance and well-being.

Interestingly, the greater a country’s “genetic distance” was from Denmark, which is often ranked the happiest country in the world, the lower the reported well-being of that nation.

Furthermore, scientists say they looked at previous research linking mental wellbeing to a mutation of the gene that influences the re-uptake of serotonin.

“The short version [of the gene] has been associated with higher scores on neuroticism and lower life satisfaction. Intriguingly, among the 30 nations included in the study, it is Denmark and the Netherlands that appear to have the lowest percentage of people with this short version,” explains lead researcher Dr Eugenio Proto in Science Daily.

Finally, the scientists looked at whether or not the link between genetics and happiness also held up across generations, continents and even oceans.

“We used data on the reported wellbeing of Americans and then looked at which part of the world their ancestors had come from,” says Professor Oswald, another researcher. “The evidence revealed that there is an unexplained positive correlation between the happiness today of some nations and the observed happiness of Americans whose ancestors came from these nations, even after controlling for personal income and religion.”

To summarize, scientists say “it seems there are reasons to believe that genetic patterns may help researchers to understand international well-being levels.”

To see the results of the study, click here.

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