, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 565-575

Effect of Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Tests on Health Behaviour and Anxiety: A Survey of Consumers and Potential Consumers

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Abstract

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests can be purchased over the internet. Some companies claim to provide relative genetic risks for various diseases and thus encourage healthy behaviour. There are concerns that exposure to such information may actually discourage healthy behaviour or increase health anxiety. An online survey was conducted (n = 275). Respondents were composed of individuals who had purchased a DTC genetic test and received their results (consumers, n = 189), as well as individuals who were either awaiting test results or considering purchasing a test (potential consumers, n = 86). Consumers were asked if their health behaviour or health anxiety had changed after receiving their results. Respondents’ current health behaviour and health anxiety were queried and compared. In total, 27.3 % of consumers claimed a change in health behaviour, all either positive or neutral, with no reported cessation of any existing health behaviour. A change in health anxiety was claimed by 24.6 % of consumers, 85.3 % of which were a reduction. Consumers had significantly better health behaviour scores than potential consumers (p = 0.02), with no significant difference in health anxiety. This study points towards an association between receipt of DTC genetic test results and increased adoption of healthy behaviours for a minority of consumers based on self-report, with more mixed results in relation to health anxiety.