Young Adults Focus on Health Behaviors Over Genetics

But those with more behavioral risk factors often explain conditions with genetics over behaviors
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, June 11 (HealthDay News) -- Overall, young adults tend to favor health behaviors over genetics as the cause of common preventable diseases, but those with more behavioral risk factors were more likely to lean toward genetic explanations, according to research published online June 8 in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Suzanne C. O'Neill, Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues analyzed data from 1,959 young black or white adults who were members of a health management organization and had not been diagnosed with eight largely preventable conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

The researchers found that the participants tended to favor behavioral explanations for these diseases versus genetic causes. More felt it was very important to learn about how health habits affect their risk of health conditions, rather than know about their genes. However, those who had more behavioral risk factors tended to favor genetics versus behavior in explaining conditions.

"Our results suggest that a diverse population of healthy adults do not, as a whole, over-ascribe common health conditions to genetics or hold defensively biased causal attributions that would inhibit needed behavior change. However, those with the greatest need for behavior change are at most risk for responding defensively and devaluing information for behavior change," the authors conclude.

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