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Age Differences in Genetic Knowledge, Health Literacy and Causal Beliefs for Health Conditions

Ashida S.a · Goodman M.b · Pandya C.b · Koehly L.M.a · Lachance C.a · Stafford J.b · Kaphingst K.A.a

Author affiliations

aSocial and Behavioral Research Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute, Bethesda, Md., and bGraduate Program in Public Health, Department of Preventive Medicine, Stony Brook University, New York, N.Y., USA

Corresponding Author

Sato Ashida, PhD

School of Public Health, University of Memphis

Browning Hall 224

Memphis, TN 38152 (USA)

Tel. +1 901 678 1687, Fax +1 901 678 1715, E-Mail sashida@memphis.edu

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Public Health Genomics 2011;14:307–316

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Objectives: This study examined the levels of genetic knowledge, health literacy and beliefs about causation of health conditions among individuals in different age groups. Methods: Individuals (n = 971) recruited through 8 community health centers in Suffolk County, New York, completed a one-time survey. Results: Levels of genetic knowledge were lower among individuals in older age groups (26–35, p = 0.011; 36–49, p = 0.002; 50 years and older, p<0.001) compared to those in the youngest age group (18–25). Participants in the oldest age group also had lower health literacy than those in the youngest group (p <0.001). Those in the oldest group were more likely to endorse genetic (OR = 1.87, p = 0.008) and less likely to endorse behavioral factors like diet, exercise and smoking (OR = 0.55, p = 0.010) as causes of a person’s body weight than those in the youngest group. Higher levels of genetic knowledge were associated with higher likelihood of behavioral attribution for body weight (OR = 1.25, p <0.001). Conclusions: Providing additional information that compensates for their lower genetic knowledge may help individuals in older age groups benefit from rapidly emerging genetic health information more fully. Increasing the levels of genetic knowledge about common complex diseases may help motivate individuals to engage in health promoting behaviors to maintain healthy weight through increases in behavioral causal attributions.

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Published online: September 09, 2010
Issue release date: July 2011

Number of Print Pages: 10
Number of Figures: 0
Number of Tables: 4

ISSN: 1662-4246 (Print)
eISSN: 1662-8063 (Online)

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