(HealthDay News) – Women with low expression of a gene involved in breaking down neurotransmitters report greater happiness, according to a study published online Aug 4 in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry.

Henian Chen, MD, PhD, from the University of South Florida in Tampa, and colleagues analyzed data from 345 Caucasian individuals (193 women and 152 men) who underwent psychopathologic assessments over 30 years, beginning in late childhood, and whose happiness had been evaluated via the four-item Subjective Happiness Scale in 2004 at a mean age of 33 years. In 2010, at a mean age of 38 years, the participants underwent genotyping for monoamine oxidase A (MAOA).

The researchers found that after adjustment for age, gender, and a range of sociodemographic, physical and mental health, and other potentially confounding variables, for women, low expression of MAOA (MAOA-L) correlated significantly with greater happiness. The effect was stronger for those with two alleles (one L-allele, 0.261; two L-alleles, 0.522; P=0.002). There was no association seen for men.

“This new finding may help explain the gender difference on happiness and provide a link between MAOA and human happiness,” Chen and colleagues conclude.

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