Molecular Mechanisms Underlying the Health Advantages Associated with Psychological Well-Being

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To identify molecular mechanisms underlying the prospective health advantages associated with psychological well-being, we analyzed leukocyte basal gene expression profiles in 80 healthy adults who were assessed for hedonic and eudaimonic well-being, as well as potentially confounded negative psychological and behavioral factors. Hedonic and eudaimonic well-being showed similar affective correlates but highly divergent transcriptome profiles. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells from people with high levels of hedonic well-being showed up-regulated expression of a stress-related conserved transcriptional response to adversity (CTRA) involving increased expression of proinflammatory genes and decreased expression of genes involved in antibody…show more content…
Philosophers have long distinguished two basic forms of well-being: a “hedonic” form representing the sum of an individual’s positive affective experiences, and a deeper “eudaimonic” form that results from striving toward meaning and a noble purpose beyond simple self-gratification (6, 13⇓⇓–16). Both dimensions of well-being are deeply implicated in human biology and evolution (17⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓⇓–24), with hedonic well-being hypothesized to motivate basic physiological and psychological adaptations, and eudaimonic well-being hypothesized to motivate more complex social and cultural capacities (17⇓–19, 25, 26). Although hedonic and eudaimonic well-being are conceptually distinct, they are empirically correlated (14, 27) and can reciprocally influence each other (28, 29). As a result, it has been difficult to determine from observational epidemiology which form of human well-being is most directly related to physical health and longevity (6). It has also been difficult to determine whether hedonic and eudaimonic well-being engage similar biological processes, or whether they have distinct physiologic consequences (although refs. 13, 30, and 31 provide some initial explorations). In the present study, we examined the biological implications of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being through the lens of the human genome—a system of ∼21,000 genes that has evolved
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