Publication Abstract

Authors: O'Neill SC, Tercyak KP, Baytop C, Hensley Alford S, McBride CM

Title: A new approach to assessing affect and the emotional implications of personal genomic testing for common disease risk.

Journal: Public Health Genomics 18(2):104-12

Date: 2015

Abstract: AIMS: Personal genomic testing (PGT) for common disease risk is becoming increasingly frequent, but little is known about people's array of emotional reactions to learning their genomic risk profiles and the psychological harms/benefits of PGT. We conducted a study of post-PGT affect, including positive, neutral, and negative states that may arise after testing. METHODS: A total of 228 healthy adults received PGT for common disease variants and completed a semistructured research interview within 2 weeks of disclosure. The study participants reported how the PGT results made them feel in their own words. Using an iterative coding process, the responses were organized into three broad affective categories: negative, neutral, and positive affect. RESULTS: Neutral affect was the most prevalent response (53.9%), followed by positive affect (26.9%) and negative affect (19.2%). We found no differences by gender, race, or education. CONCLUSIONS: While <20% of participants reported negative affect in response to learning their genomic risk profile for common diseases, a majority experienced either neutral or positive emotions. These findings contribute to the growing evidence that PGT does not impose significant psychological harms. Moreover, they point to a need to better link theories and assessments in both emotional and cognitive processing to capitalize on PGT information for healthy behavior change.