Reacting to genetic risk: An experimental survey of life between health and disease

Rene Almeling, Shana Kushner Gadarian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Medical sociologists contend that we are living in an era of surveillance medicine, in which the emphasis on risk blurs the lines between health and disease. Yet, data to examine these claims are generally drawn from patients, raising questions about whether this modern experience of medical risk extends beyond the clinic to healthy people in the larger population. We use the specific case of genetic risk to construct a survey experiment designed to induce the conditions theorized by surveillance medicine. Each respondent in a nationally representative sample (N = 2, 100) was assigned a genetic risk (20%, 30%... 80%) for a disease (colon cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease) and asked about many potential reactions. We find that people in the general population—regardless of health status or family history—respond to hypothetical genetic risk information by wanting to take action, and their reactions are stronger in domains related to self and family than to community and polity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)482-503
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Health and Social Behavior
Volume55
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

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Keywords

  • Genetic testing
  • Risk
  • Surveillance medicine
  • Survey experiment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Social Psychology

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