Meike Bartels

Genetics and Well-Being | Dept. Biological Psychology | VU Amsterdam & Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute

Is happiness in your genes?

Meike Bartels (1973) is University Research Chair Professor in Genetics and Well-being at the department for Biological Psychology at the Free University of Amsterdam. In 1998 she graduated as a biological psychologist and immediately started her PhD trajectory at the Dutch Twin Registry (Nederlands Tweelingen Register). During the final stage of her PhD – which was concerned with behavioral issues in children – she noticed that usually a small part of a society develops behavioral issues while the rest of that society is actually doing just fine, and decided to focus her research on the root causes of these differences in well-being. In 2014 she was appointed Professor in the University Research Chair Program of the Free University. She is now president of the Behavior Genetics Association and the president-elect of the International Positive Psychology Association. In her research she demonstrated that differences in happiness arise from a complex interplay of our genes and our environment. In fact, her team was the first to map out genetic variations associated with happiness and meaningfulness.

Some would score their lives with an 8, others with a 5. One is almost always happy, the other merely every now and then. Where do these differences in happiness come from? By means of valuable data from twin studies and their family members, Meike Bartels shows that differences in happiness are partly caused by the fact that humans are genetically different. But there are also environmental factors that account for varying perceptions of happiness.

How can people become happier? During her lecture, Meike Bartels will tell us more about her twin studies, the study of happiness, and will tell us whether we should or not should not consult a happiness trainer.

Meike Bartels at the VU

Meike Barels on Twitter