, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 392-400
Date: 30 Aug 2012

Exploring dispositional tendencies to seek online information about direct-to-consumer genetic testing

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Varying perspectives exist regarding the implications of genetic susceptibility testing for common disease, with some anticipating adverse effects and others expecting positive outcomes; however, little is known about the characteristics of people who are most likely to be interested in direct-to-consumer genetic testing. To that end, this study examines the association of individual dispositional differences with health risk perceptions and online information seeking related to a free genetic susceptibility test. Healthy adults enrolled in a large health maintenance organization were surveyed by telephone. Eligible participants (N = 1,959) were given access to a secure website that provided risk and benefit information about a genetic susceptibility test and given the option to be tested. Neuroticism was associated with increased perceptions of disease risk but not with logging on. Those scoring high in conscientiousness were more likely to log on. We found no evidence that neuroticism, a dispositional characteristic commonly linked to adverse emotional response, was predictive of online genetic information seeking in this sample of healthy adults.


Policy: The findings reported here suggest that early adopters of online direct-to-consumer genetic tests will not disproportionately exhibit dispositional characteristics commonly associated with negative emotional responses.
Research: Future research must begin to explore how the broadening reach of genetic tests enabled by projected cost decreases will affect the characteristics of consumers who seek tests and their responses to test offerings and feedback.
Practice: Consumers of genetic tests who present to health providers may not be especially driven by a need for emotional reassurance regarding results; these conscientious individuals may be inquisitive about the implications of results for health maintenance.