Background: The assessment and communication of disease risk that is personalised to the individual is widespread in healthcare contexts. Despite several systematic reviews of RCTs, it is unclear under what circumstances that personalised risk estimates promotes change in four key health-related behaviours: smoking, physical activity, diet and alcohol consumption.
Purpose: The present research aims to systematically identify, evaluate and synthesise the findings of existing systematic reviews.
Methods: This systematic review of systematic reviews followed published guidance. A search of four databases and two-stage screening procedure with good reliability identified nine eligible systematic reviews.
Results: The nine reviews each included between three and 15 primary studies, containing 36 unique studies. Methods of personalising risk feedback included imaging/visual feedback, genetic testing, and numerical estimation from risk algorithms. The reviews were generally high quality. For a broad range of methods of estimating and communicating risk, the reviews found no evidence that risk information had strong or consistent effects on health-related behaviours. The most promising effects came from interventions using visual or imaging techniques and with smoking cessation and dietary behaviour as outcomes, but with inconsistent results. Few interventions explicitly used theory, few targeted self-efficacy or response efficacy, and a limited range of Behaviour Change Techniques were used.
Conclusions: Presenting risk information on its own, even when highly personalised, does not produce strong effects on health-related behaviours or changes which are sustained. Future research in this area should build on the existing knowledge base about increasing the effects of risk communication on behaviour.
Keywords: Behaviour; Behaviour change; Risk communication; Systematic review.