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Personalised Risk Estimates of Diabetes Does Not Motivate Healthy Behaviour

COMMUNICATING personalised information about genetic and phenotypic risks of Type 2 diabetes does not motivate positive behaviour change in the short-term. This is according to the results of a new study carried out by researchers at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

The study highlights the need for future research to determine how providing patients with risk information can improve preventive health strategies. The team also found that communicating these personalised risk estimates did not cause patients an experience an increased level of anxiety or worry. This is also important due to concerns about potential adverse psychological consequences of predictive genetic testing.

The researchers recruited both men and women born between 1950 and 1975, with no previous diagnosis of diabetes or any other chronic illness, from the Fenland Study in England. In the final sample, 550 participants were randomly assigned to receive either standard lifestyle advice for preventing diabetes (n=184); lifestyle advice and a genetic risk estimate of developing diabetes (n=184); or lifestyle advice and a phenotypic risk estimate (n=182).

At the 8-week follow-up the researchers observed no significant between-group differences in physical activity. Subgroup analyses also showed no effect on the level of physical activity between patients given a high or low-risk estimates of developing diabetes. Additionally, no significant differences were found between the groups in self-reported diet, health, and weight as well as in the levels of anxiety or worry.

The researchers concluded that the provision of genetic risk information did not motivate healthy changes in behaviour above phenotypic risk information or standard lifestyle advice alone. Researchers also noted that: “The results of the current study provide further evidence for a shift in focus for promoting healthy changes in habitual, environmentally patterned behaviours such as physical activity and diet, away from interventions solely based on provision of information and advice to individuals towards interventions that target the wider collective determinants of disease.”

Jack Redden, Reporter

Keywords: anxiety, Cambridge, Diabetes, England, Fenland study, Genetic, lifestyle, Phenotypic, Risk, Type 2