Association Between a Serotonin Transporter Gene Variant and Hopelessness Among Men in the Heart and Soul Study

This study sought to determine whether the presence of a short allele variant of the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) was associated with a greater propensity to hopelessness—defined as a sense of futility and negative future orientation—in patients with chronic cardiovascular disease. They also wanted to see whether the effect was moderated by race or sex.

Researchers studied patients enrolled in the Heart and Soul Study at 12 sites in northern California. To score helplessness, patients were asked to answer two questions using a four-point scale, 1(somewhat disagree), 2 (cannot say), 3 (somewhat agree) and 4 (absolutely agree):

  • “I feel that it is impossible to reach the goals I would like to strive for.”
  • “The future seems to me to be hopeless, and I can’t believe that things are changing for the better.”

Participants’ age, race, gender, marital status, income, education, smoking and alcohol use were determined by a self-administered questionnaire.

Males with the short genotype were more than twice as likely to feel hopeless as those with the long genotype. The researchers did not find any differences in hopelessness by racial group or any association between the 5-HTTLPR genotype and hopelessness in the females in the study.