The secret to living happily ever after may lie in your DNA, Medical Daily reported.
In a study published in the journal Emotion, researchers from Northwestern University and the University of California Berkeley sought to examine whether the length of a person’s “happy hormone” – gene variant 5-HTTLPR – could predict marital success.
The 5-HTTLPR gene is dubbed the “happy hormone” because it regulates serotonin, a chemical that increases happiness, stabilizes mood and prevents depression. The gene is made up of alleles of various lengths – either long or short – a variation that is passed down from a person’s parents.
The study’s authors analyzed the DNA of 156 couples who were middle-aged or older and then followed their relationships for 20 years. In addition to taking DNA samples, the researchers also examined the emotional tone of how each person discussed his or her marriage over that period.
Overall, 83 percent of the couples possessed either one long and one short allele, or two long alleles. People with these variants of 5-HTTLPR seemed to have more emotional stability throughout the course of their marriages, compared to people who had two short alleles.
Seventeen percent of couples had two short 5-HTTLPR alleles, and these couples displayed more emotional volatility as they cycled through the ups and downs of marriage. They were more likely to be very upset when things were going poorly or very happy when things were going well, compared to people with two long alleles or a long and short allele.
“Individuals with two short alleles of the gene variant may be like hothouse flowers, blossoming in a marriage when the emotional climate is good and withering when it is bad,” lead study author Claudia M. Haase, of Northwestern University, told the Daily Mail.
However, the study authors caution that none of the gene combinations studied necessarily doom a person to fail at marriage or guarantee them to succeed.
“Neither of these genetic variants is inherently good or bad. Each has its advantages and disadvantages,” said Haase.