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Personality Polygenes, Positive Affect, and Life Satisfaction

  • Alexander Weiss (a1), Bart M. L. Baselmans (a2) (a3), Edith Hofer (a4) (a5), Jingyun Yang (a6) (a7), Aysu Okbay (a8) (a9) (a10), Penelope A. Lind (a11), Mike B. Miller (a12), Ilja M. Nolte (a13), Wei Zhao (a14), Saskia P. Hagenaars (a1) (a15), Jouke-Jan Hottenga (a2) (a3), Lindsay K. Matteson (a12), Harold Snieder (a13), Jessica D. Faul (a16), Catharina A. Hartman (a17), Patricia A. Boyle (a6) (a18), Henning Tiemeier (a9) (a19) (a20), Miriam A. Mosing (a21) (a22), Alison Pattie (a1), Gail Davies (a1), David C. Liewald (a1), Reinhold Schmidt (a4), Philip L. De Jager (a23) (a24) (a25), Andrew C. Heath (a26), Markus Jokela (a27), John M. Starr (a28), Albertine J. Oldehinkel (a17), Magnus Johannesson (a29), David Cesarini (a30) (a31), Albert Hofman (a9), Sarah E. Harris (a1) (a32), Jennifer A. Smith (a14), Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen (a33), Laura Pulkki-Råback (a33) (a34), Helena Schmidt (a35) (a36), Jacqui Smith (a37), William G. Iacono (a12), Matt McGue (a12), David A. Bennett (a6) (a7), Nancy L. Pedersen (a22), Patrik K. E. Magnusson (a22), Ian J. Deary (a1), Nicholas G. Martin (a11), Dorret I. Boomsma (a2) (a3) (a38), Meike Bartels (a2) (a3) (a38) and Michelle Luciano (a1)...


Approximately half of the variation in wellbeing measures overlaps with variation in personality traits. Studies of non-human primate pedigrees and human twins suggest that this is due to common genetic influences. We tested whether personality polygenic scores for the NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) domains and for item response theory (IRT) derived extraversion and neuroticism scores predict variance in wellbeing measures. Polygenic scores were based on published genome-wide association (GWA) results in over 17,000 individuals for the NEO-FFI and in over 63,000 for the IRT extraversion and neuroticism traits. The NEO-FFI polygenic scores were used to predict life satisfaction in 7 cohorts, positive affect in 12 cohorts, and general wellbeing in 1 cohort (maximal N = 46,508). Meta-analysis of these results showed no significant association between NEO-FFI personality polygenic scores and the wellbeing measures. IRT extraversion and neuroticism polygenic scores were used to predict life satisfaction and positive affect in almost 37,000 individuals from UK Biobank. Significant positive associations (effect sizes <0.05%) were observed between the extraversion polygenic score and wellbeing measures, and a negative association was observed between the polygenic neuroticism score and life satisfaction. Furthermore, using GWA data, genetic correlations of -0.49 and -0.55 were estimated between neuroticism with life satisfaction and positive affect, respectively. The moderate genetic correlation between neuroticism and wellbeing is in line with twin research showing that genetic influences on wellbeing are also shared with other independent personality domains.


This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Michelle Luciano, Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology, Department of Psychology, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, The University of Edinburgh, 7 George Square, EH8 9JZ Edinburgh, UK. E-mail:


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