Born to be Happy? The Etiology of Subjective Well-Being

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Subjective Wellbeing (SWB) can be assessed with distinct measures that have been hypothesized to represent different domains of SWB. The current study assessed SWB with four different measures in a genetically informative sample of adolescent twins and their siblings aged 13-28 years (N = 5,024 subjects from 2,157 families). Multivariate genetic modeling was applied to the data to explore the etiology of individual differences in SWB measures and the association among them. Developmental trends and sex differences were examined for mean levels and the variance-covariance structure. Mean SWB levels were equal in men and women. A small negative effect of age on mean levels of SWB was found. Individual differences in SWB were accounted for by additive and non-additive genetic influences, and non-shared environment. The broad-sense heritabilities were estimated between 40 and 50%. The clustering of the four different measures (quality of life in general, satisfaction with life, quality of life at present, and subjective happiness) was explained by an underlying additive genetic factor and an underlying non-additive genetic factor. The effect of these latent genetic factors on the phenotypes was not moderated by either age or sex.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-615
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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