A DNA test takes a close look at your genes and gives you information about what those genes indicate. It is possible to learn from a DNA test if you have a gene that increases the risk of developing a specific disease. Researchers found that people are more influenced by the good news in their DNA test than by the bad news.
A study was done by scientists at MIT, the Broad Institute, Harvard Medical School Brigham, Women’s Hospital and 23andMe. The purpose of the study was to gate how genetic testing affects consumers. The study was called “The impact of personal genomics on risk perceptions and medical decision-making”.
The researchers looked at how testing changes people’s perception of risk, whether testing triggers undue stress, and whether testing led people to flock to their doctors and burden the healthcare system. All three of those concerns were ones that some felt would happen to people who received the results of a DNA test that included health information.
Scientists drew data from about 617 23andMe consumer who enrolled in the research study before the FDA initiated a regulatory process that resulted in 23andMe taking one of their DNA tests off the market. In other words, the data comes from DNA tests that can no longer be purchased.
Researchers surveyed the 617 people more than once. The first time was before they received their DNA test results. The individuals were surveyed again six months after they had received their results. The researchers found that there wasn’t an “excessive overreaction nor complete disregard for the test results.”
The results of the study showed that there was no evidence that people were burdening their doctors with the results of their DNA test. The results also showed that people did not appear to overreact to the information that their DNA test showed them.
Interestingly, the researchers found that people have an “optimism bias”. People want to believe good news. The impact of positive news was about twice as strong as the impact of negative news. The researchers don’t know for certain why there was a difference in the impact of good news versus bad news.
They also noticed that when there was a large change in perceived risk based on the genetic test – that was when a consumer was more likely to seek medical advice. Overall, people learned about their health from their genetic test results. They alter their beliefs about their health based on those results. But, they don’t seek medical action until after they receive news of large and unexpected risks.
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