Does genomic risk information motivate people to change their behavior?

Genome Med. 2009 Apr 2;1(4):37. doi: 10.1186/gm37.


The recent flood of information about new gene variants associated with chronic disease risk from genome-wide association studies has understandably led to enthusiasm that genetic discoveries could reduce disease burdens and increase the availability of direct-to-consumer tests offering risk information. However, we suggest caution: if it is to be any benefit to health, genetic risk information needs to prompt individuals to pursue risk-reduction behaviors, yet early evidence suggests that genetic risk may not be an effective motivator of behavior change. It is not clear how genetic information will inform risk-based behavioral intervention, or what harms might occur. Research is needed that examines the behavioral consequences of genetic risk knowledge in the context of other motivators and social conditions, as well as research that determines the subgroups of people most likely to be motivated, in order to inform policy decisions about emerging genetic susceptibility tests. Without such research, it will not be possible to determine the appropriate health care uses for such tests, the impact on health care resources from consumer-initiated testing, or the criteria for truthful advertising of direct-to-consumer tests.

Publication types

  • Editorial