Research finds leadership genes linked to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia

Max Depree once said: A leader’s first responsibility is to define reality.

So what is the reality of being able to lead? Although being a leader may seem like an incredible step in one’s career, being in leadership, according to academic research, may not be as good for your mind or your body.

A research team led by CUHK Business School, in collaboration with the National University of Singapore, has found that there may be a unique genetic link between leadership and physical and mental health. It has been discovered that genes linked to leadership roles could also put a person’s physical and mental health at risk. People who lead or manage are said to have a shorter lifespan and suffer from a higher body mass index (BMI), additional risks of cardiovascular disease and may even trigger bipolar disorder and schizophrenia if under long-term stress. term.

The research team was led by CUHK Business School Associate Professor of Management Li Wendong; with Song Zhaoli, Research Associate Professors, National University Singapore Business School, and Alex Cho Fan of Duck-NUS Medical School, National University of Singapore.

The team collected and researched the genetic and medical data of over 240,000 people of European ancestry via UK Biobank, the world’s largest public genetic and occupational database.

The research also obtained data from the UK Official Standard Occupational Classification and US Career Information websites.

Unlike previous studies, the study found positive correlations between leadership and indicators of general well-being. It shows that genes associated with leadership can also harm people’s physical and mental health. Excluding the impact of income and education levels, leadership roles are genetically linked to higher BMI, additional risks of cardiovascular disease and shortened lifespan.

Lee explained, “One of the causes may be due to the enormous psychological load required to maintain a position of leadership. When one is subjected to various sources of stress for an extended period of time, it will trigger psychological and physical stress responses.

These responses include fat metabolism and changes in cardiovascular function, which impair long-term well-being. In other words, leaders can be prone to illnesses and ailments caused by these stresses through genetic inheritance. Pressures experienced by leaders can also trigger or exacerbate these effects.

One of the most shocking findings was that the genes closely linked to leadership skills are also the genetic variants contributing to an increased risk of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Professor Lee pointed out: “People with bipolar or schizophrenia can benefit from becoming leaders. But this study also revealed a very first discovery; there is a link between a genetic mutation in a person’s leadership ability and bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The study also revealed that leadership and alcoholism are genetically linked.

Apart from genetic factors, the research team also tested leadership roles and their link to traditional genes linked to leadership abilities. The test was based on criteria such as intelligence quotient (IQ), risk tolerance, height and others. The results suggest that genes believed to trigger leadership may be linked to these traits.


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