A Genetic Investigation of the Well-Being Spectrum

B. M.L. Baselmans*, M. P. van de Weijer, A. Abdellaoui, J. M. Vink, J. J. Hottenga, G. Willemsen, M. G. Nivard, E. J.C. de Geus, D. I. Boomsma, M. Bartels

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The interrelations among well-being, neuroticism, and depression can be captured in a so-called well-being spectrum (3-phenotype well-being spectrum, 3-WBS). Several other human traits are likely linked to the 3-WBS. In the present study, we investigate how the 3-WBS can be expanded. First, we constructed polygenic risk scores for the 3-WBS and used this score to predict a series of traits that have been associated with well-being in the literature. We included information on loneliness, big five personality traits, self-rated health, and flourishing. The 3-WBS polygenic score predicted all the original 3-WBS traits and additionally loneliness, self-rated health, and extraversion (R 2 between 0.62% and 1.58%). Next, using LD score regression, we calculated genetic correlations between the 3-WBS and the traits of interest. From all candidate traits, loneliness and self-rated health were found to have the strongest genetic correlations (r g = − 0.79, and r g = 0.64, respectively) with the 3-WBS. Lastly, we use Genomic SEM to investigate the factor structure of the proposed spectrum. The best model fit was obtained for a two-factor model including the 5-WBS traits, with two highly correlated factors representing the negative- and positive end of the spectrum. Based on these analyses we propose to include loneliness and self-rated health in the WBS and use a 5-phenotype well-being spectrum in future studies to gain more insight into the determinants of human well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-297
Number of pages12
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2019


  • Flourishing
  • Genetic correlation
  • Loneliness
  • Personality
  • Self-rated health
  • Well-being spectrum

Cohort Studies

  • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


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