Mental wellbeing and mental illness symptoms are typically conceptualized as opposite ends of a continuum, despite only sharing about a quarter in common variance. We investigated the normative variation in measures of wellbeing and of depression and anxiety in 1486 twins who did not meet clinical criteria for an overt diagnosis. We quantified the shared versus distinct genetic and environmental variance between wellbeing and depression and anxiety symptoms. The majority of participants (93%) reported levels of depression and anxiety symptoms within the healthy range, yet only 23% reported a wellbeing score within the “flourishing” range: the remainder were within the ranges of “moderate” (67%) or “languishing” (10%). In twin models, measures of wellbeing and of depression and anxiety shared 50.09% of variance due to genetic factors and 18.27% due to environmental factors; the rest of the variance was due to unique variation impacting wellbeing or depression and anxiety symptoms. These findings suggest that an absence of clinically-significant symptoms of depression and anxiety does not necessarily indicate that an individual is flourishing. Both unique and shared genetic and environmental factors may determine why some individuals flourish in the absence of symptoms while others do not.
- Mental health