Costa Ricans take pride in having the country rank high on world happiness scales, even though some of the surveys might be questionable.
But now comes a possible answer. Researchers report that the DNA of residents is more likely to contain a specific allele involved in sensory pleasure and pain reduction.
The report is in the Spring Publishers’ Journal of Happiness Studies.
The two researchers, Michael Minkov of the Varna University of Management in Bulgaria and Michael Bond of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University compared happiness surveys with a Yale University genetic database.
Said a Springer summary: “The authors found a strong correlation between a nation’s happiness and the presence of the A allele in the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) gene variant rs324420 in its citizens’ genetic make-up. This allele helps prevent the
chemical degradation of anandamide, a substance that enhances sensory pleasure and helps to reduce pain.”
The researchers used the World Values Survey from 2000 to 2014 for the happiness measure.
“Nations with the highest prevalence of the A allele are quite clearly also those who perceive themselves happiest,” said the summary. “These include Ghana and Nigeria in West Africa, and northern Latin American nations, such as Mexico and Columbia, whose citizens are of Amerindian or mixed Euro-American descent. The Arab nations of Iraq and Jordan, and the East Asian nations of Hong Kong, China, Thailand and Taiwan, which had the lowest prevalence of this allele, were also found to be the least likely to rate themselves as very happy.”
The two researchers also found a correlation with favorable climate and happiness.
The findings seemed to be stable even in the face of variations in economic wealth, the type of law governing a nation or disease patterns, said the researchers