Public attitudes towards genetic testing revisited: comparing opinions between 2002 and 2010

  • Author: Henneman, Vermeulen, van El, Claassen, Timmermans & Cornel
  • Journal: European Journal of Human Genetics
  • Issue: 6
  • Volume: 21
  • Pages: 793-799


Ten years after the Human Genome Project, medicine is still waiting for many of the promised benefits, and experts have tempered their high expectations. Public opinion on genetic testing has generally been favourable but is this still the case? The aim of this study is to compare public experiences, beliefs and expectations concerning genetic testing over the years (2002 vs 2010). A cross-sectional questionnaire survey was conducted using the Dutch Health Care Consumer Panel in 2002 and 2010. Responses to questions in identical wording were compared. In 2002 and 2010, 817 (63%) and 978 (70%) members responded, respectively. Awareness and reported use of genetic tests remained stable over time. In 2010, more respondents expected genetic testing to become more widely applied, believed that knowledge about the genetic background of disease helps people live longer, and that testing should be promoted more intensively. In 2010, they were also more interested in their own genetic make-up. On the one hand, the concern that a dichotomy would emerge between people with ‘good genes’ and ‘bad genes’ was higher. On the other hand, respondents thought that insurance companies would be less likely to demand a genetic test in order to calculate health insurance premiums. In conclusion, the results suggest that in 8 years, expectations of benefits and potential use of genetic testing have been raised among the public, resulting in more positive opinions. Worries on inequity remain, although worries about premium differentiation by insurance companies have decreased.

Keywords: genetic testing, experiences, public opinion, attitudes, expectations, beliefs