Biological pathways and genetic mechanisms involved in social functioning

Juan R. Ordoñana*, Meike Bartels, Dorret I. Boomsma, David Cella, Miriam Mosing, Joao R. Oliveira, Donald L. Patrick, Ruut Veenhoven, Gert G. Wagner, Mirjam A.G. Sprangers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Purpose: To describe the major findings in the literature regarding associations between biological and genetic factors and social functioning, paying special attention to: (1) heritability studies on social functioning and related concepts; (2) hypothesized biological pathways and genetic variants that could be involved in social functioning, and (3) the implications of these results for quality-of-life research. Methods: A search of Web of Science and PubMed databases was conducted using combinations of the following keywords: genetics, twins, heritability, social functioning, social adjustment, social interaction, and social dysfunction. Results: Variability in the definitions and measures of social functioning was extensive. Moderate to high heritability was reported for social functioning and related concepts, including prosocial behavior, loneliness, and extraversion. Disorders characterized by impairments in social functioning also show substantial heritability. Genetic variants hypothesized to be involved in social functioning are related to the network of brain structures and processes that are known to affect social cognition and behavior. Conclusions: Better knowledge and understanding about the impact of genetic factors on social functioning is needed to help us to attain a more comprehensive view of health-related quality-of-life (HRQOL) and will ultimately enhance our ability to identify those patients who are vulnerable to poor social functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1189-1200
Number of pages12
JournalQuality of Life Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Genetic underpinning
  • Genetic variants
  • Patient-reported outcomes
  • Quality of life
  • Social functioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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