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Different types of happiness alter gene expression, study shows

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A person’s sense of happiness may affect the way his or her genes are expressed, Medical News Today reported.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) categorized 80 healthy adults based on whether they experienced a greater sense of eudaimonic well-being or hedonic well-being. Eudaimonic well-being is associated with having “a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life,” while hedonic well-being is linked with complete self-gratification.

After categorizing the participants, researchers then drew blood from each individual.  Using a gene expression profile known as the conserved transcriptional response to adversity (CTRA), they mapped out each participant’s genome, which consists of approximately 21,000 genes.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers noted that people who possessed eudaimonic well-being had low levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong expressions of both antiviral and antibody genes. Conversely, people who had high levels of hedonic well-being had high inflammation and low expression of antiviral and antibody genes, according to Medical News Today.

While the two groups had different gene expression profiles, they reported feeling the same and possessed similar levels of positivity.  

"What this study tells us is that doing good and feeling good have very different effects on the human genome, even though they generate similar levels of positive emotion,” study author Steven Cole said. “Apparently, the human genome is much more sensitive to different ways of achieving happiness than are conscious minds."

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