Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 127–137 | Cite as

Preferences for Genetic and Behavioral Health Information: The Impact of Risk Factors and Disease Attributions

  • Suzanne C. O’NeillEmail author
  • Colleen M. McBride
  • Sharon Hensley Alford
  • Kimberly A. Kaphingst
Original Article


Increased availability of genetic risk information may lead the public to give precedence to genetic causation over behavioral/environmental factors, decreasing motivation for behavior change. Few population-based data inform these concerns. We assess the association of family history, behavioral risks, and causal attributions for diseases and the perceived value of pursuing information emphasizing health habits or genes. 1,959 healthy adults completed a survey that assessed behavioral risk factors, family history, causal attributions of eight diseases, and health information preferences. Participants’ causal beliefs favored health behaviors over genetics. Interest in behavioral information was higher than in genetic information. As behavioral risk factors increased, inclination toward genetic explanations increased; interest in how health habits affect disease risk decreased. Those at greatest need for behavior change may hold attributions that diminish interest in information for behavior change. Enhancing understanding of gene-environment influences could be explored to increase engagement with health information.


Genetic testing Attribution Family history Behavioral risk factors 



This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the NHGRI. However, the proposed research was made possible by collaboration with the Cancer Research Network funded by the National Cancer Institute (U19 CA 079689). Additional resources were provided by Group Health Research Institute and Henry Ford Hospital. Genotyping services were provided by the Center for Inherited Disease Research (CIDR). CIDR is fully funded through a federal contract from the NIH to The Johns Hopkins University (HHSN268200782096C). We also thank the Multiplex steering committee (Drs. Colleen McBride, Lawrence Brody, Sharon Hensley Alford, Robert Reid, Eric Larson, Andreas Baxevanis, and Sharon Kardia) who provided critical review of this report. Our thanks also go to the study participants who were all members of the Henry Ford Health System.


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Copyright information

© US Government 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suzanne C. O’Neill
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Colleen M. McBride
    • 1
  • Sharon Hensley Alford
    • 2
  • Kimberly A. Kaphingst
    • 1
  1. 1.Social and Behavioral Research Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute/National Institutes of Health (NHGRI/NIH)BethesdaUSA
  2. 2.Henry Ford Health SystemDetroitUSA
  3. 3.Cancer Control Program, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer CenterGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA

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