Genetics affect how we handle stress and anxiety, study shows

Have you ever noticed how some people seem to handle stress a lot better than others?

There are those who seem to thrive under pressure, while others, including yours truly, are more likely to spiral into an existential crisis at the slightest inconvenience.

Until now, I’ve always just assumed these calm people must be doing something the rest of us aren’t. Meditation? Journalling? Better sleep hygiene?

However, according to a new study, it might have a lot more to do with their biology. Scientists at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that a receptor on the surface of the brain that plays a key role in how we respond to stress.

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Studying this previously little-known S1PR3 receptor, they tested its affect on the resilience of stress by putting rats – and later, humans – into a range of situations, varying in their degree of stress.

From doing this, they found those rats with higher levels of the S1Pr3 protein were more resilient to stress, and thus, more likely to use coping strategies and actively tackle the situation. While on the flip side, rats with lower levels of the same protein were more likely to cope passively and respond to the situation with high levels of stress and anxiety.

While scientists acknowledged their findings required further research, they could if confirmed lead to new ways of looking at how we cope with stress and allow doctors to identify those people more at risk of stress-related disorders.