January 12, 2011
Genetic Tests Not Causing Anxiety

We can handle the truth.

Results of direct-to-consumer genetic tests may induce far less hand-wringing than previously speculated, researchers say.

Patients had no increases in anxiety after their results were revealed, nor did they make any changes in diet or lifestyle based on the findings, Eric Topol, MD, of Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, Calif., and colleagues reported online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The curious are not hurt by the results of their curiosity. Hey, someone tell the state governments of California and New York since they seek to make personal genetic testing hard to get without approval of a physician.

People who had higher risk for disease did say they would get a greater number of screening tests in the future to monitor their health. But the team “observed no significant differences in the level of anxiety, dietary fat intake or exercise behavior between baseline and follow-up for the same as a whole,” they wrote.

Topol said the medical establishment remained skeptical about genome-wide tests, and that the results should assuage some fears about the technology. “We’ve shown that at least those people who are curious are not hurt, and they may benefit from the results,” he said.

No worries.

“Our research showed no evidence whatsoever of anxiety or psychological stress,” said Eric Topol, MD, Director of Scripps Translational Science Institute, Chief Academic Officer of Scripps Health, and Professor of Translational Genomics of The Scripps Research Institute and senior author of the study. “This is particularly significant because it is the first large body of data we have to allay concerns around consumer anxiety related to genetic risk assessment. Not only can consumers handle their personal genetic information, but they are getting genomically oriented and anchored about such data.”

We should continue to be able to get all manner of genetic and other tests done for ourselves without need to take the time and money to see a doctor. We have the right to know our genetic testing results and medical tests.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 January 12 11:36 PM  Policy Medical

BioBob said at January 13, 2011 1:06 AM:

LOL --- until we freak out when the health insurance bill rises by 300% cuz they got a gander at your results !!!

yeh yeh, I know, its all private - pull the other one.

jp straley said at January 13, 2011 8:00 AM:

Hey, Bio Bob:

I agree with you that making your genetics known to an insurance company will affect your insurance costs. Your genetics affect your direct health costs anyway, right?

An analogy is that having bad behavior (too many accidents) affects your driving insurance costs, and sometimes commercial insurers are reluctant so you must be insured in a govt.-sponsored insurance pool

It's a market force, and market forces will drive genetic intervention and early intervention strategies.

JP Straley

kurt9 said at January 13, 2011 12:31 PM:

As an intelligent, competent adult, I find the notion that I need some "expert" or "authority" to decide what knowledge I can handle or not, especially knowledge about myself, to be deeply offensive.

PacRim Jim said at January 13, 2011 12:41 PM:

Will Consumer Reports or another organization monitor the accuracy of these tests. Otherwise, they would be relatively worthless.

tonyhei said at January 13, 2011 12:47 PM:

Dude, you buried the lead on this story. The lead should be: "Genetic test users made no changes in diet or lifestyle"

Which is pretty shocking actually. As someone who just mailed his 23andme kit, you can make damn sure I'm going to use it for great benefit.

Dowlan Smith said at January 13, 2011 4:09 PM:

I bet the anxiety when waiting in the doctor's waiting room is higher. Artificial environment- CHECK. Antiseptic smells to trigger hind-brain associations- CHECK. Unnecessary expense and co-pay to build resentment and add further adrenaline-CHECK.


Going about your ordinary routine, and getting an email, text or letter with the results and finding out the results with no further wait, inconvenience or expense.

Attached will probably be a number to call a nurse or counselor to discuss the results when you are ready.

Sycamore said at January 13, 2011 6:12 PM:

The very study itself, regardless of the results, smacks of the totally overbearing degree of utilitarianism we live under. No balance, no moderation, such as might accord with the mixed and even contradictory nature and tendencies of the human being - just pure utilitarianism, 100%. There's no respect for the right to commerce, or right to knowledge, absent an overriding state or collective interest - which clearly is indeed absent here. If I were comfortably numb, modern liberals would only forward their absolute congratulations. And to be honest I kind of wish I were - but by the time I was, I'd robustly wish I weren't. That's 'man,' and we should not be shocked that he isn;t entirely reputable. But a balance between his impulses is wise...

cancer_man said at January 13, 2011 8:16 PM:


Please let us experts decide if you are in fact an intelligent, competent adult rather than jump to conclusions.

Randall Parker said at January 15, 2011 1:17 PM:


Changes in diet and lifestyle: Well, genetic risks are too remote. People need brighter flashing warning signs like very high cholesterol or pre-type 2 diabetic levels of blood sugar to change their diets. Often then they fail to do so. Look at all the obese people walking around (or sitting since walking is so hard with all that weight).

I'm expecting genetic test results to become much more useful than they are currently. Once they offer bigger potential benefits people will become more willing to act on their results.

DonM said at January 17, 2011 12:28 PM:

Oddly, obese people seem on average to live longer than the thin ones, at least as long as they don't have diabetes. This offends diet salesmen enough that it is called a paradox.

The Atkins diet inventor, Dr. Atkins, died of heart disease, and was overweight.

Jim Kick, the starter of the Jogging craze, died at 52.

DonM said at January 17, 2011 12:33 PM:

Oops. Jim Fixx. Not Jim Kick.

Vinny said at January 17, 2011 12:53 PM:

Dr. Adkins died slipping on iced pavement and hitting his head on concrete!

He was not overweight and did not have heart disease, so stop lying...

Indy said at January 17, 2011 1:33 PM:

I got my 23andMe results. Perfectly happy. More happy than I was without the results. It's strange - I'm not at all tempted to do something stupid because I now have some genetic heritage and disease-susceptibility data. Please, paternalists, stay out of my life, it's none of your business. Sometimes, you just want go all Adam Samberg in "I Threw It On the Ground" on people, "I'm an ADULT!"

tehag said at January 18, 2011 6:18 AM:

"LOL --- until we freak out when the health insurance bill rises by 300% cuz they got a gander at your results !!!"

Based on my results, my bill should decline.

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