Some people just can’t seem to lock down a long-term relationship, and while it’s easy to blame a poor love life on character flaws, experts say genetics may have something to do with being single.
According to research from Peking University, genetic variants of the gene 5-HTA1 could partially account for how successful someone is when it comes to romantic relationships. 5-HTA1–a gene everyone has two copies of–comes with either a C variant or a G variant. The variants you are given come from your parents, and influence the body’s total levels of the chemical serotonin.
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Serotonin is considered by experts to be a mood regulating neurotransmitter, and lower levels have traditionally been associated with depression. In the Peking University research, participants with C variant 5-HTA1 had higher levels of serotonin, whereas G variant individuals had lower levels of the chemical. Subsequently, 50 percent of individuals with the C variant were in relationships, while only 40 percent of people with the G variant were in relationships.
“Love-related behaviors, such as pair bonding and affective affiliation, are shown to be associated with the serotonin levels in the brain,” wrote researchers in the journal report.
“In non-human animals, decreasing serotonin levels via 5-HT1A receptor agonists diminishes female sexual receptivity and induces aggression towards male mates. The G allele of the C-1019G (rs6295) polymorphism, which leads to higher expression of 5-HT1A gene, is related to decreased comfort with close relationships. Thus it is possible that this 5-HT1A gene polymorphism is related to the likelihood of a young adult being in a relationship. This possibility was tested on 579 Chinese undergraduate students.”
Experts feel the lower levels of serotonin are directly related to relationship failure, though the genetic variances explained only 1.4 percent of the difference in likelihood of being single or in a relationship.
“Its provocative and really interesting, Aleksandr Kogan, a psychologist at Cambridge University, told The Guardian. In human social behavior, its so unusual for something to make such a big difference, especially a single variant, unless its a disease where you have a serious abnormality. A lot of things affect whether youre in a relationship or not. People break up under a lot of different circumstances. So you wouldnt expect everyone who is CC to be in a relationship. But 50 percent of them are, compared with only 40 percent of the others, and thats quite a gap.
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Critics of the study feel a more diverse population should tested to see if the results can be duplicated. Because Chinese college students were banned from having campus relationships for a number of decades, it is possible that family pressure as well as cultural influences have overridden some genetic predispositions.