Is love in your stars? More likely in your genes. A recent Chinese study was the first to show that some teens may be hard wired to find love.
Finding love is easy for some people, it seems. There are those who marry their high school sweethearts, and others who wander from one long-term relationship to the next. Then there are people who want nothing more than to be with a romantic partner and yet spend much of their lives single.
Many factors affect whether or not we’re in a romantic relationship. Our personalities can determine if the person we’re dating becomes a long-term partner, while other factors influence our chances of getting a date in the first place.
But what about our genes? They are of course indirectly involved in our romantic lives since they influence everything about us, including how we look and behave.
The researchers behind ‘The association between romantic relationship status and 5-HT1A gene in young adults’ figured they’d look at a gene that controls levels of the brain chemical serotonin. Also known as the ‘happy hormone’, serotonin affects our mood and it’s behind many of the things we do when we’re in love, like bonding with our sweetheart. Different versions of the gene are possible – the one we have depends on what we inherit from our father and our mother.
The researchers already knew that one version ups serotonin levels in the brain, and that having it tends to go hand-in- hand with a good mood and mental health. So they rounded up 579 Chinese undergraduates to see whether students who had this version were more likely to have found love.
Love was indeed in the air for many, the researchers found. About 50 per cent who had the version that boosts serotonin levels in the brain were in a relationship, whereas just under 40 per cent of those with a second version were single.
How could this one gene affect relationships? Students with the second version might be more likely to have psychological disorders like depression, as a result of lower levels of serotonin. And since mental health is so important to romantic relationships, it’s possible that students who inherit one version and not the other are more likely to have trouble finding love, reason the researchers.
However, like so many of these studies, this one comes with a great big ‘but’. Though the gene did affect the love lives of these Chinese students, it’s hard to say whether this would be the case for other groups of people, the researchers conclude. After all, there are so many different factors that affect whether we fall in love or not – like the way we become attached to a romantic partner or if we are an optimist – and these things could have much more of an impact than one gene. So there’s a reason for optimism – even if you don’t have the ‘love gene’!