Impact of communicating personalized genetic risk information on perceived control over the risk: a systematic review

Genet Med. 2011 Apr;13(4):273-7. doi: 10.1097/GIM.0b013e3181f710ca.


Purpose: Much concern has been expressed that feedback of personalized genetic risk information may lead to fatalism, i.e., a lack of perceived control over the risk. This review aimed to assess the strength of evidence for such a view.

Method: Electronic databases were searched to find eligible studies, which comprised randomized, controlled trials and analog studies, in which participants in one arm received either real or imagined personalized genetic risk information and assessed perceived control in relation to the treatability or preventability of the health problem.

Results: Inspection of 1340 abstracts resulted in 5 studies meeting the inclusion criteria, involving the prediction of obesity, heart disease, depression, and diabetes. Meta-analyses of the clinical studies revealed no impact of personalized genetic risk information on perceived control in either the short term (pooled standardized mean difference 0.09, 95% confidence interval, -0.51 to 0.70) or longer term (pooled standardized mean difference 0.00, confidence interval, -0.20 to 0.21). Similarly, no impact on perceived control was evident in the three analog studies (pooled standardized mean difference 0.02, confidence interval, -0.17 to 0.20).

Conclusion: Few studies have assessed empirically the impact of personalized genetic risk information on fatalism, assessed using perceptions of control over the risk. Limited evidence suggests feedback of genetic risk information may have little impact on such beliefs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Culture
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Health
  • Health Communication*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Research Design
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Environment