Objective: Advances in genomewide association studies have made possible the return of genetic risk results for complex diseases. Two concerns about these results are (a) negative psychological consequences and (b) viewing probabilistic results as deterministic, leading to misinterpretation and inappropriate decisions. The present study evaluates these concerns through a meta-analytic review of existing literature. Method: Seventeen genetic testing studies of complex disease, including 1,171 participants and reporting 195 effects, 104 of which were unadjusted for covariates, were meta-analyzed under a random effects model. Diseases included Alzheimer's, cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, lung cancer, melanoma, thrombophilia, and type II diabetes. Six domains of behavioral-psychological reactions were examined. Results: Carriers showed significantly increased self-reported behavior change compared to noncarriers when assessed 6 months or later after results return (Hedges's g = .36, p = .019). Conclusions: Return of genetic testing results for complex disease does not strongly impact self-reported negative behavior or psychological function of at-risk individuals. Return of results does appear to moderately increase self-reported healthy behavior in carriers, although research on objectively observed behavior change is needed. This is a growing area of research, with preliminary results suggesting potential positive implications of genetic testing for complex disease on behavior change.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported through National Institutes of Health Grants R01DA037904, K01DA037280, University of Michigan Genomics Initiative, R21DA040177, R01AA023974, and R01HG008983. This content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
© 2018 American Psychological Association.
- Complex disease
- Genetic essentialism
- Genetic testing
- Return of results