Your genes don't lie: you can't buy true happiness

DNA expression proves you cannot buy happiness
CC BY-SA 2.0 Anders Sandberg

You've always heard you can't buy happiness. It appears scientists have proven the adage true.

A study conducted by researchers from UCLA's Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and the University of North Carolina looked at how various kinds of happiness affects our gene expression.

If you think of your genes like a book, imagine that gene expression is the movie. Although the book defines the plot, the characters, and the scenes, the movie director may give it a comic turn, twist it noir, or make it feel like a documentary. In the case of gene expression, your genes may tell your body to act one way under certain conditions such as stress and may express differently at other times.

It turns out that people who report feeling eudaimonic happiness -- that glowing aura that comes with helping someone else -- show gene expression profiles in their immune system that reduce inflammatory responses and increase antiviral and antibody production.

For people reporting hedonic happiness -- that thrill of living large that we associate with a shopping spree -- the reverse occurs, with increased inflammation and reduced resistance to attack. According to Steven Cole, a UCLA professor of medicine and senior author of the research:

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.

Other studies continue to link inflammatory reactions with cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, and other diseases. Between that and impaired resistance to viral infections, one could say that means our consumerist lifestyles are killing us! You cannot buy happiness.

Your genes don't lie: you can't buy true happiness
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