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Eur J Hum Genet. 2010 Jan;18(1):47-51. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2009.138.

Public interest in predictive genetic testing, including direct-to-consumer testing, for susceptibility to major depression: preliminary findings.

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School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Black Dog Institute Building, Prince of Wales Hospital, Hospital Road, Randwick, NSW 2031, Australia.


The past decade has seen rapid advances in the identification of associations between candidate genes and a range of common multifactorial disorders. This paper evaluates public attitudes towards the complexity of genetic risk prediction in psychiatry involving susceptibility genes, uncertain penetrance and gene-environment interactions on which successful molecular-based mental health interventions will depend. A qualitative approach was taken to enable the exploration of the views of the public. Four structured focus groups were conducted with a total of 36 participants. The majority of participants indicated interest in having a genetic test for susceptibility to major depression, if it was available. Having a family history of mental illness was cited as a major reason. After discussion of perceived positive and negative implications of predictive genetic testing, nine of 24 participants initially interested in having such a test changed their mind. Fear of genetic discrimination and privacy issues predominantly influenced change of attitude. All participants still interested in having a predictive genetic test for risk for depression reported they would only do so through trusted medical professionals. Participants were unanimously against direct-to-consumer genetic testing marketed through the Internet, although some would consider it if there was suitable protection against discrimination. The study highlights the importance of general practitioner and public education about psychiatric genetics, and the availability of appropriate treatment and support services prior to implementation of future predictive genetic testing services.

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