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Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2009 Mar;22(2):218-23. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e3283252d80.

Psychosocial aspects of genetic testing.

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  • 1Department of Psychology (Tamaki Campus), The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.



With rapid advances in genetic testing for disease susceptibility, behavioral medicine faces significant challenges in identifying likely patterns of use, how individuals interpret test results, and psychosocial and health impacts of testing. We review recent research on these psychosocial aspects of genetic testing for disease risk.


Individuals exhibit limited sensitivity in their perceptions of genetic risk information, and mental representations of disease risk appear to guide testing perceptions and behavioral responses. Motivations to undergo testing are complex, and efforts to develop decision aids are underway. Findings on psychological and behavioral impacts of genetic testing vary markedly, with some evidence of minimal or positive effects and other evidence indicating negative consequences that may be undetectable using common measures of general well being. Recent evidence suggests that genetic risk information can motivate health behavior change. Research demonstrates wide-ranging influences of testing on family dynamics, and use of genetic testing with children is of increasing concern.


More research is needed to determine how to structure health communications and counseling to motivate informed use, promote positive responses, and optimize behavior change. Given the ramifications of genetic information for families, personalized genomics will demand a shift toward a family-based healthcare model.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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