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1.5 million for Genetics and Well-being professor Meike Bartels

14 November 2022
Bartels will use this personal grant from NWO to a better understanding of the causes of differences in happiness and wellbeing.

People who feel good function better and have more lasting relationships. With advanced data analysis techniques and wellbeing training in large samples with (epi) genetic, metabolic, and environmental data, the pathways to and from wellbeing will be mapped. Wellbeing can be maintained and improved with this new knowledge.

In this Vici project, Bartels, often referred to as the 'Happiness Professor’, will use the unique multi-omics (genomics, epigenomics, metabolomics, and exposome) data from the Netherlands Twin Register and the UK Biobank to develop models to analyze the dynamic patterns between biological factors and environmental factors so that we can better understand differences in wellbeing. She will also offer gamified wellbeing training to large groups of twinpairs to find out which wellbeing training works for whom.

Bartels: “Just like physical fitness, one can train happiness and wellbeing. But everyone is different. These differences are partly due to genetic differences. With this project, we will better understand the causes of differences in happiness.”

Interplay of genes and environment
In previous work, Bartels has shown that 40 percent of the differences in happiness between people are explained by genetic differences. She published the first genetic locations for happiness. In her ongoing ERC consolidator project, she conducts large-scale systematic research into environmental factors and the interplay of genes and environment to explain differences in happiness.

More -omics layers
In addition to genetic and environmental information, there are more -omics layers with information (such as epigenetic information and metabolites) that together show a fascinating dynamic. By bringing these -omics layers together in models and using data-driven techniques, it will become increasingly clear why one is happier than the other.

Tailor-made happiness training
Worldwide research shows that happiness and wellbeing are trainable. Often the same training is used for everyone. Genetic and environmental differences, as well as differences in the newly explored omics layers, will force us to switch to a more personalized well-being training. In her Vici project, Bartels and her team will offer different components of wellbeing training to participants for whom information for the different -omics layers is also available. By combining wellbeing training with multi-omics models, it will become clear which components of wellbeing training work for whom.

Vici financing
Together with the Veni and Vidi grants, the Vici grant is part of the NWO Talent Programme. Vici is aimed at senior researchers who have demonstrated their ability to successfully develop their own innovative line of research. Researchers who are awarded a Vici grant are allowed to set up their own research group.

Read more about Meike Bartels