Genetic evidence for a large overlap and potential bidirectional causal effects between resilience and well-being

Lianne de Vries, Bart M.L. Baselmans, Jurjen J. Luykx, Eveline L. de Zeeuw, Camelia C. Minică, Eco J.C. de Geus, Christiaan H. Vinkers, Meike Bartels

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Resilience and well-being are strongly related. People with higher levels of well-being are more resilient after stressful life events or trauma and vice versa. Less is known about the underlying sources of overlap and causality between the constructs. In a sample of 11.304 twins and 2.572 siblings from the Netherlands Twin Register, we investigated the overlap and possible direction of causation between resilience (i.e. the absence of psychiatric symptoms despite negative life events) and well-being (i.e. satisfaction with life) using polygenic score (PGS) prediction, twin-sibling modelling, and the Mendelian Randomization Direction of Causality (MR-DoC) model. Longitudinal twin-sibling models showed significant phenotypic correlations between resilience and well-being (.41/.51 at time 1 and 2). Well-being PGS were predictive for both well-being and resilience, indicating that genetic factors influencing well-being also predict resilience. Twin-sibling modeling confirmed this genetic correlation (0.71) and showed a strong environmental correlation (0.93). In line with causality, both genetic (51%) and environmental (49%) factors contributed significantly to the covariance between resilience and well-being. Furthermore, the results of within-subject and MZ twin differences analyses were in line with bidirectional causality. Additionally, we used the MR-DoC model combining both molecular and twin data to test causality, while correcting for pleiotropy. We confirmed the causal effect from well-being to resilience, with the direct effect of well-being explaining 11% (T1) and 20% (T2) of the variance in resilience. Data limitations prevented us to test the directional effect from resilience to well-being with the MR-DoC model. To conclude, we showed a strong relation between well-being and resilience. A first attempt to quantify the direction of this relationship points towards a bidirectional causal effect. If replicated, the potential mutual effects can have implications for interventions to lower psychopathology vulnerability, as resilience and well-being are both negatively related to psychopathology.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100315
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalNeurobiology of Stress
Early online date14 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme771057


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