A population-based survey in Australia of men's and women's perceptions of genetic risk and predictive genetic testing and implications for primary care

Public Health Genomics. 2011;14(6):325-36. doi: 10.1159/000324706. Epub 2011 Apr 13.


Background: Community attitudes research regarding genetic issues is important when contemplating the potential value and utilisation of predictive testing for common diseases in mainstream health services. This article aims to report population-based attitudes and discuss their relevance to integrating genetic services in primary health contexts.

Methods: Men's and women's attitudes were investigated via population-based omnibus telephone survey in Queensland, Australia. Randomly selected adults (n = 1,230) with a mean age of 48.8 years were interviewed regarding perceptions of genetic determinants of health; benefits of genetic testing that predict 'certain' versus 'probable' future illness; and concern, if any, regarding potential misuse of genetic test information.

Results: Most (75%) respondents believed genetic factors significantly influenced health status; 85% regarded genetic testing positively although attitudes varied with age. Risk-based information was less valued than certainty-based information, but women valued risk information significantly more highly than men. Respondents reported 'concern' (44%) and 'no concern' (47%) regarding potential misuse of genetic information.

Conclusions: This study contributes important population-based data as most research has involved selected individuals closely impacted by genetic disorders. While community attitudes were positive regarding genetic testing, genetic literacy is important to establish. The nature of gender differences regarding risk perception merits further study and has policy and service implications. Community concern about potential genetic discrimination must be addressed if health benefits of testing are to be maximised. Larger questions remain in scientific, policy, service delivery, and professional practice domains before predictive testing for common disorders is efficacious in mainstream health care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Australia
  • Female
  • Genetic Testing / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Public Health
  • Public Opinion
  • Risk
  • Sex Factors