Research Topic Title: Investigating the genetic and environmental contributions to mental wellbeing, within a policy relevant framework
Maintaining good mental wellbeing is important for preventing mental illnesses, and for positive life outcomes in e.g. relationships, employment and physical health. Understanding what makes people mentally healthy is crucial for the development of effective interventions and public policies.
I use large datasets such as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children and the UK Biobank to explore individual differences in mental wellbeing, using methods from epidemiology, behavioural genetics and health economics. I am interested in aspects of mental wellbeing beyond the commonly used happiness and life satisfaction, to other positive constructs such as gratitude, meaning in life and optimism. I have studied how wellbeing in emerging adulthood is influenced by family, childhood and contemporaneous factors, and also the unique importance of the social environment (social support and social comparisons) for wellbeing at this age. More recently, I am exploring the complex interactions between genetics and environments – are there certain environments that draw out an individual’s genetic predisposition to be happy or environments that suppress an individual’s genetic risk for developing depression?
During this fellowship, in addition to publishing my PhD studies, I wish to develop my ideas and skills that will allow me to become an effective researcher in the new and exciting field of “social science genomics”. Having built connections with policy makers and non-academic stakeholders such as Department of Health during my PhD, I hope to strengthen these relationships as well as create new ones e.g. with Public Health England and Behavioural Insights Team.
Mentors: Professor Stephanie von Hinke, Professor Claire Haworth
Wang, R. A. H., Nelson-Coffey, S. K., Layous, K., Bao, K. J., Davis, O. S. P., & Haworth, C. M. A. (2017). Moderators of wellbeing interventions: Why do some people respond more positively than others? PLOS ONE, 12(11), e0187601. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0187601
Wang, R. A. H., Davis, O. S. P., Wootton, R. E., Mottershaw, A., & Haworth, C. M. A. (2017). Social support and mental health in late adolescence are correlated for genetic, as well as environmental, reasons. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 13088. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-13449-2
Mandy, W., Wang, A., Lee, I., & Skuse, D. (2017). Evaluating social (pragmatic) communication disorder. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 58(10), 1166–1175. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12785
Wootton, R. E., Davis, O. S., Mottershaw, A. L., Wang, R. A. H., & Haworth, C. M. (2017). Genetic and environmental correlations between subjective wellbeing and experience of life events in adolescence. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 1–9.
Wootton, R. E., Davis, O. S. P., Mottershaw, A. L., Wang, R. A. H., & Haworth, C. M. A. (2016). Exploring the Genetic Etiology of Trust in Adolescents: Combined Twin and DNA Analyses. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 19(6), 638–646. https://doi.org/10.1017/thg.2016.84
Alsiö, J., Nilsson, S. R. O., Gastambide, F., Wang, R. A. H., Dam, S. A., Mar, A. C., … Robbins, T. W. (2015). The role of 5-HT2C receptors in touchscreen visual reversal learning in the rat: A cross-site study. Psychopharmacology, 232(21-22), 4017–4031. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-015-3963-5