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Background: Genome-wide association studies are rapidly advancing our understanding of the genetic architecture of complex psychiatric conditions. In order to use findings from these studies for enhanced clinical prediction, we need to gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding the return of complex genetic results.

Methods: We review the current literature on genetic literacy in the population, the public’s interest in receiving genetic test results for psychiatric conditions, how individuals react to and interpret their genetic results for psychiatric conditions, and gaps in our knowledge that will be critical to address before returning genetic results for psychiatric conditions.

Results: We find that in hypothetical scenarios genetic test results indicating increased risk for a psychiatric condition lowers an individual’s confidence to control behavior, reduces self-agency, and negatively impacts affect. Individuals may believe that a change in behavior is important, but there is little evidence that genetic test results indicating increased risk for a psychiatric condition are associated with behavior change. The negative impact of results indicating an increased risk may stem from common misconceptions of complex disorders that exist in approximately 25% to 35% of individuals studied.

Conclusions: Individuals with these misunderstandings about the role of genetic factors in complex disorders may have a belief in genetic determinism, the idea that behaviors and characteristics are determined solely by one’s genetic information. Regardless of one’s genetic knowledge, a majority of people are interested in receiving genetic feedback for psychiatric conditions, highlighting a need for effective communication of these genetic test results.

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Medicine and Health Sciences

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VCU Graduate Research Posters

The future of returning genetic test results for psychiatric conditions