A Successful Life is in Your Genes, Study Suggests

Everything about yourself and your life could be under the influence of your genes, new research says. Genes play a greater role in traits as self-control, decision making or sociability than previously thought.

These traits and characteristics play an important role in how life progresses, if you are successful in career and have healthy relationships, or not, the researchers said.

"Ever since the ancient Greeks, people have debated the nature of a good life and the nature of a virtuous life," study researcher Timothy Bates, of the University of Edinburgh, said in a statement. "Why do some people seem to manage their lives, have good relationships and cooperate to achieve their goals while others do not? Previously, the role of family and the environment around the home often dominated people's ideas about what affected psychological well-being. However, this work highlights a much more powerful influence from genetics."

A study of more than 800 sets of twins in the United States — most aged 50 and over—found that genetics were more influential in shaping key traits than a person's home environment and surroundings. The study, which builds on previous research that found that happiness is underpinned by genes, used a series of questions to test how they perceived themselves and others. Questions included "Are you influenced by people with strong opinions?" and "Are you disappointed about your achievements in life?"

The results were then measured according to the Ryff Psychological Well-Being Scale which assesses and standardizes these characteristics. They then compared how similar answers from genetically identical twins were, and compared this to the amount of similarity between non-identical twins that only share 50 percent of their genetics, similar to any other siblings.

If the similarities between genetically identical twins are stronger than those between non-identical twins, then genetics must play an important role in how these characteristics come about.

Researchers found that genes affected a person's sense of purpose, how well they get on with people and their ability to continue learning and developing throughout life. Bates said that the genetic influence was strongest on a person's sense of self-control.

The latest research was published online March 20 and will be included in a future issue of the Journal of Personality.

Live Science Staff
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