A multivariate twin study of the genetic association between present moment attention and subjective wellbeing

Kirk Warren Brown, Fazil Aliev, Thalia Eley, Danielle M. Dick, Chelsea Sawyers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Considerable evidence supports the role of present-moment attention, a central feature of mindfulness, in subjective wellbeing maintenance and enhancement. Yet it is not clear why such a relation exists. This study examined the genetic and environmental contributions of present-moment attention to subjective wellbeing. Consistent with the “generalist genes hypothesis” and prior evidence, we hypothesized that presence and subjective wellbeing would show a substantial genetic correlation and smaller environmental correlation. Using a large epidemiological sample of healthy 16-year-old twins in the United Kingdom (N = 1136 monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs), genetic overlap was found between presence and the cognitive component of subjective wellbeing (life satisfaction), and to a lesser extent, the affective component of subjective wellbeing (operationalized as happiness). The non-shared environmental overlap between these constructs was substantial. This study provides the first evidence known to us showing that present-centered attention, a primary component of mindfulness, has both genetic and environmental overlap with subjective wellbeing. The findings have implications for understanding mechanisms by which presence is associated with positive emotions and life satisfaction, and suggest, pending additional research, that mindfulness-based interventions to enhance wellbeing may be best suited to those with a genetic propensity toward mindful presence.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 14 Sept 2023


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