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

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2014 Oct;22(10):997-1006.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2014.03.009. Epub 2014 Mar 26.


Objective: 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.

Design: 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).

Participants: 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.

Measurements: 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.

Results: 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.

Conclusions: 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.

Keywords: Optimism; aging; depression; genotyping; resilience; single-nucleotide polymorphisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Depression / genetics
  • Female
  • Fibrinogens, Abnormal / genetics*
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-10 / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monoamine Oxidase / genetics*
  • Multifactorial Inheritance / genetics
  • Personality / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics*
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • White People / genetics


  • Fibrinogens, Abnormal
  • IL10 protein, human
  • fibrinogen gamma'
  • Interleukin-10
  • Monoamine Oxidase
  • monoamine oxidase A, human