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Candidate SNP associations of optimism and resilience in older adults: exploratory study of 935 community-dwelling adults.



Optimism and resilience promote health and well-being in older adults, and previous reports suggest that these traits are heritable. We examined the association of selected single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with optimism and resilience in older adults.


Candidate gene association study that was a follow-on at the University of California, San Diego, sites of two NIH-funded multi-site longitudinal investigations: Women's Health Initiative (WHI) and SELenium and vitamin E Cancer prevention Trial (SELECT).


426 women from WHI older than age 50 years, and 509 men older than age 55 years (age 50 years for African American men) from SELECT.


65 candidate gene SNPs that were judged by consensus, based on a literature review, as being related to predisposition to optimism and resilience, and 31 ancestry informative marker SNPs, genotyped from blood-based DNA samples and self-report scales for trait optimism, resilience, and depressive symptoms.


Using a Bonferroni threshold for significant association (p = 0.00089), there were no significant associations for individual SNPs with optimism or resilience in single-locus analyses. Exploratory multi-locus polygenic analyses with p <0.05 showed an association of optimism with SNPs in MAOA, IL10, and FGG genes, and an association of resilience with a SNP in MAOA gene.


Correcting for Type I errors, there were no significant associations of optimism and resilience with specific gene SNPs in single-locus analyses. Positive psychological traits are likely to be genetically complex, with many loci having small effects contributing to phenotypic variation. Our exploratory multi-locus polygenic analyses suggest that larger sample sizes and complementary approaches involving methods such as sequence-based association studies, copy number variation analyses, and pathway-based analyses could be useful for better understanding the genetic basis of these positive psychological traits.

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