Bad genes an easy excuse for poor health

Washington: People find it easier to blame bad genes for poor health rather than taking the initiative to change their lifestyle. And this comes despite knowing that genes are only partly responsible for one`s health condition.

According to Suzanne O`Neill and her colleagues from the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, US, people on the whole are still interested in knowing how health habits affect disease risk.

In order to identify the link between family history, behavioural risks and causal attributions for diseases and the perceived value of pursuing information emphasizing health habits or genes, the authors asked a total of 1,959 healthy American adults to complete a survey.

They found that the majority of participants recognised that health behaviours were more likely to cause ill-health than genetics.

However, as the number of behavioural risk factors increased, inclination to favour genetic explanations also increased.

Those with the greatest need to change their behaviours are more likely to favour genetic explanations for their diseases.

The more behavioural risk factors they have, the less likely they are to be interested in behaviour change information.

The completion of the Human Genome Project has led to increased availability of genetic risk information linking gene variants to a number of common health conditions.

There is some concern that this genetic risk information might prompt some individuals to give genetic causation undue importance while downplaying the contribution of well-known behavioural and environmental factors.

This potential misinterpretation of genetic information may undermine public health efforts to promote the behavioural changes needed to prevent disease.

The study was published online in Springer`s journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.


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