Am J Med Genet A 2004 Jul;128A(2):151-5
Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.
One purpose of this study was to examine hypothetical interest in genetic predisposition testing for alcoholism among at-risk relatives. Qualitative interviews and several quantitative tools were administered to 27 individuals who had at least one first-degree relative affected by alcoholism. Data analysis revealed that participants' interest in genetic testing for susceptibility to alcoholism was moderate. Lower educational level and a stronger belief in 'others' influencing health were related to participants' having a stronger interest in genetic testing. Participants' concerns about future use of genetic testing ranged from doubts about its usefulness in affecting behavior to apprehension regarding detrimental societal effects such as breaches in confidentiality and fear of being labeled an 'alcoholic.' Younger age and stronger interest in genetic testing were associated with deterministic or fatalistic beliefs, while drinking behaviors, gender, and other demographics were not. Participants questioned the utility of this type of testing. Their interest in testing and concerns about its hypothetical use may prove important for at-risk relatives who may face decisions about genetic testing in the future. Data from this study can provide direction for researchers and health care providers as genetic testing for this and other behavioral conditions emerges. Scientists and the public should address the social concerns expressed by participants, including the fear of labeling. Also, we can begin to anticipate characteristics common in those who may have fatalistic responses, and who may possibly make adverse behavior choices, to results from alcoholism susceptibility testing.