How Do You Feel? Probably a Lot Like Your Parents

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How we look, what we're good at, and also the tasks we can't manage can be blamed largely on genetics. Now researchers have learned that even how you feel is rooted partly in your inherited genes.

A new study finds that genetics are about 33 percent responsible for how we feel physically and about 36 percent responsible for our mental and emotional well-being.

"Attitudes and perceptions have a genetic piece and an environmental piece," said James Romeis, a professor of health services research at Saint Louis University School of Public Health and the principal investigator of the study. "Health-related quality of life is our perception of health and how we believe disease and illness impacts our ability to function. It's much more influenced by genes than we thought."

The research, published in the November issue of the journal Medical Care, was funded by the federal National Institute of Aging.

Romeis and his colleagues surveyed 2,928 middle-age, middle-class, predominately white male twins. They compared information they received from sets of identical twins, who have exactly the same genes, with fraternal twins, who share half their genes. The researchers asked about physical functioning, physical limitations, pain, general health, vitality, ability to function socially, emotional limitations and mental health.

"This isn't just an attitude," Romeis said. "This is an attitude that is deeply rooted in their soul – not only their psychology but their biology."

Romeis does not think there is one gene that predisposes men to feel healthy.

"However it is plausible that there are complex genetic relationships that affect how we feel about the quality of our health."

The findings might shed light on why some people are more likely to call the doctor about medical problems, or why some don't follow prescribed treatments, diets or fitness routines.

Live Science Staff
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