According to researchers from the University of Edinburgh and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane, they have found that our personalities and happiness are largely hereditary and the genetically-determined personality traits affect our happiness.
The research, published in the latest issue of the journal Psychological Science, rated the personalities of 973 pairs of twins. In the research, a Five Factor Model of personality is used to rate the twins in which measures neuroticism, extroversion, conscientiousness, openness and agreeableness. The study shows identical twins have a very similar personality and wellbeing. But fraternal twins are only around half as similar. Hence, this suggests that genes are responsible for certain personality traits.
Those who are conscientious, extroverted and not overly neurotic are more likely to be happy and people with these personality traits tend to have a happiness 'buffer' to help them through hard times. While the researchers found happiness has its roots in our genes, half is related to our work, health or relationships.
One of the researchers Professor Timothy Bates says this research is the beginnings of a new theory of happiness. "It helps us understand what was otherwise a real puzzle. Why do people tend to show stable differences in happiness? It turns out that if we want to understand happiness, we will need to understand personality," he says. He also comments that personality traits of being outgoing, calm, and reliable are it 'affective reserve' that drives future happiness.
Professor Robert Cummins, from the Australian Centre on Quality of Life at Deakin University in Melbourne, says it's in our best interests to be positive and personality has a 'set point' around which we maintain our wellbeing. "The average person feels well satisfied with themselves and their life and that's the average set point ... even people with low set points feel positive. Besides remaining positive in your outlook is incredibly important, it gives you a motivation for doing something when you wake up in the morning and makes you get on with life and do things " he says.
Bates says the latest research confirms most us are happy for much of the time, that we generally like who we are and we don't want to change too much. Although he says the study could shed some light on mood disorders such as depression. "Linking happiness to personality and a focus on the positive will help our research into therapies and ways to avoid the low end of the happiness [scale] - depression."
Further Readings :
Psychological Science, March 2008, Vol. 19 Issue 3 Page 205-210, Happiness Is a Personal(ity) Thing: The Genetics of Personality and Well-Being in a Representative Sample, Alexander Weiss, Timothy C. Bates, and Michelle Luciano