Can your happiness be passed along to your offspring? Maybe so. If it's the right kind of happiness.
UCLA researchers found that people with a sense of “hedonic” well being — celebrities, rock stars, partiers and the like — didn't have the same, lasting impact on their genes as those with a long-term, “eudaimonic” sense of purpose:
And you thought Saturday night's fun was Sunday's misery?
The research, just published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at 80 healthy subjects who experienced either hedonic or eudaimonic happiness, according to the school.
Academics drew blood samples and looked at the adults' “CTRA gene-expression profile” to map the biological effects of both kinds of feelings, UCLA says.
According to a summary:
People who have high levels of what is known as eudaimonic well-being — the kind of happiness that comes from having a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life (think Mother Teresa) — showed very favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells. They had low levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong expression of antiviral and antibody genes.
However, people who had relatively high levels of hedonic well-being — the type of happiness that comes from consummatory self-gratification (think most celebrities) — actually showed just the opposite. They had an adverse expression profile involving high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression.
In other words, temporary happiness might lead to an adverse long-term impact on the genes (and you need to tell that to anyone who has used ecstasy).
Steven Cole, UCLA professor of medicine and co-author of the paper:
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. Apparently, the human genome is much more sensitive to different ways of achieving happiness than are conscious minds.