Psychological consequences and predictors of adverse events in the first 5 years after predictive testing for Huntington's disease

Clin Genet. 2003 Oct;64(4):300-9. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-0004.2003.00157.x.


The promise of genetic medicine is to provide information, based on genotype, to persons not yet sick about their risk of future illness. However, little is known of the long-term psychological effects for asymptomatic persons learning their risk of having a serious disease. Predictive genetic testing for Huntington's disease (HD) has been offered for the longest time for any disease. In the present study, the psychological consequences of predictive testing were assessed prospectively in individuals at risk for HD during seven visits over 5 years. Questionnaires of standard measures of psychological distress (the General Severity Index of the Symptom Check List-90-Revised), depression (the Beck Depression Inventory), and general well-being (the General Well-Being Scale) were administered to the participants. A significant reduction in psychological distress was observed for both result groups throughout 2 years (p < 0.001) and at 5 years (p = 0.002). Despite the overall improvement of the psychological well-being, 6.9% (14 of 202) of the participants experienced an adverse event during the first 2 years after predictive testing that was clinically significant. The frequency of all defined adverse events in the participants was 21.8%, with higher frequency in the increased risk group (p = 0.03) and most occurring within 12 months of receiving results.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Behavioral Symptoms / psychology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling*
  • Genetic Testing / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / diagnosis*
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychological Tests
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Time Factors