This week in odd scientific studies: Researchers at the U.K.'s University of Warwick found that the Danish may be happier than other people thanks to their genetics.
Denmark regularly leads polls of the world's happiest countries, the study authors said, and they wanted to look into why, exactly, this was true. Last year's World Happiness Report ranked Denmark as the happiest nation on Earth, and researchers found that people who have Danish ancestry are more likely to have a positive life outlook.
Researchers at the university's Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) looked at data from 131 countries and found that nations genetically closer to Danes had happier residents. The research, published in a working paper by the German economic research institute IZA in its Discussion Paper series, found that Danish birth was correlated with a gene that influences serotonin — a mood chemical — levels in the brain. The greater a nation's genetic distance was from Denmark, the lower that nation's reported well-being was.
When compared with people from other countries, the Danish were less likely to possess a short version of the gene, which has been linked to lower levels of life satisfaction. While the researchers controlled for personal income and religion, those with Danish genetics were still found to be happier.
"It seems there are reasons to believe that genetic patterns may help researchers to understand international well-being levels," Andrew Oswald, one of the researchers behind the project, said in a statement. "More research in this area is now needed and economists and social scientists may need to pay greater heed to the role of genetic variation across national populations."