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FRIMEDBIO-Fri med.,helse,biol

Homo sociabilis and genomics of the good life. Rethinking wellbeing and social relations – the role of genetic and environmental processes

Alternative title: Homo sociabilis og det gode liv. Genetiske og miljømessige prosesser i livskvalitet og sosiale relasjoner.

Awarded: NOK 11.5 mill.

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2021 - 2027


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Most people wish for a long and good life. This project focuses on the factors that make life worth living. Wellbeing includes life satisfaction, happiness, engagement, meaning, resilience and absence of mental disorders. What are the factors and processes that contribute to development and sustainment of wellbeing? Our social relations represent a key life domain. Humans are profoundly social, we fill our minds and days with other people – we are Homo Sociabilis. Good social support, attachment, affection, trust and communion are systematically related to high wellbeing. Correspondingly, social conflicts, insecure relations and break-ups tend to confer excess risk for mental health problems and reduced wellbeing. There is still surprisingly limited knowledge about causal mechanisms and processes involved in generating covariation between social relations and wellbeing. Do social relations cause wellbeing, or does wellbeing create good relations? Are there underlying factors influencing both life domains? And which aspects of which relations are most important? Previous studies have shown both genetic and environmental effects on wellbeing, and meta-analyses report heritabilities of 30-40%. Yet, there is limited knowledge about the ways in which the genetic effects function. In addition to operating through internal physiological and mental processes, genetic factors may shape and influence our social environment. We will examine the role of genetic and environmental factors in generating functional social relations and multi-wellbeing, and their co-development over time. The project will use data from The Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) and a separate twin study. The project will be conducted at the Promenta Research Center, at the Department of Psychology, UiO, and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. For more information about Promenta, please see our website:

This project addresses the intricate and dynamic associations between human wellbeing and social relations. Wellbeing is a globally shared human value and defined as a UN Sustainable Development Goal. Humans are also profoundly social. We fill our days and minds with other people – we are Homo Sociabilis. Associations between wellbeing and social relations are well documented, but the nature of the associations is still largely unchartered territory. Social relations may cause wellbeing, but association may also reflect reversed causality and shared confounders, such as genetic factors. This project will bridge important gaps between different fields of wellbeing research that have developed rather isolated, and integrate a) the notion of multi-wellbeing and a general h-factor, b) the notion of wellbeing as strongly linked to our social world, and c) findings of both genetic and environmental effects on wellbeing. We focus on two important life periods; pre-birth to adolescence, and young adulthood to midlife. We will capitalize on cutting-edge methods and leverage two internationally unique, genetically informative data sets; The Mother, Father and Child Cohort study (MoBa) and the Norwegian Twin Registry. The data include a total of N>270,000, and are longitudinal - spanning up to 30 years. Genetic data include genotyping in MoBa, providing opportunities to construct polygenic scores, i.e., weighted sum-scores of genetic variants associated with the phenotypes in focus. In the twin sample, we will examine genetic and environmental factors underlying wellbeing and social relations, and delineate the interplay between genetic and environmental processes unfolding over time. Both data sets provide rich information on wellbeing and social relations. The project will be located at the PROMENTA Research Center at the University of Oslo, and involve a collaboration with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and outstanding international researchers.

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FRIMEDBIO-Fri med.,helse,biol

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