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Psychol Sci. 2008 Mar;19(3):205-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02068.x.

Happiness is a personal(ity) thing: the genetics of personality and well-being in a representative sample.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.


Subjective well-being is known to be related to personality traits. However, to date, nobody has examined whether personality and subjective well-being share a common genetic structure. We used a representative sample of 973 twin pairs to test the hypothesis that heritable differences in subjective well-being are entirely accounted for by the genetic architecture of the Five-Factor Model's personality domains. Results supported this model. Subjective well-being was accounted for by unique genetic influences from Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Conscientiousness, and by a common genetic factor that influenced all five personality domains in the directions of low Neuroticism and high Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. These findings indicate that subjective well-being is linked to personality by common genes and that personality may form an "affective reserve" relevant to set-point maintenance and changes in set point over time.

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