New literacy challenge for the twenty-first century: genetic knowledge is poor even among well educated

Chapman, Robert; Likhanov, Maxim; Selita, Fatos; Zakharov, Ilya; Smith-Woolley, Emily and Kovas, Yulia. 2019. New literacy challenge for the twenty-first century: genetic knowledge is poor even among well educated. Journal of Community Genetics, 10(1), pp. 73-84. ISSN 1868-310X [Article]

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Abstract or Description

We live in an age of rapidly advancing genetic research. This research is generating new knowledge that has implications for personal health and well-being. The present study assessed the level of genetic knowledge and personal engagement with genetics in a large sample (N = 5404) of participants. Participants received secondary education in 78 countries, with the largest samples from Russia, the UK and the USA. The results showed significant group differences in genetic knowledge between different countries, professions, education levels and religious affiliations. Overall, genetic knowledge was poor. The questions were designed to assess basic genetic literacy. However, only 1.2% of participants answered all 18 questions correctly, and the average score was 65.5%. Genetic knowledge was related to peoples’ attitudes towards genetics. For example, those with greater genetic knowledge were on average more willing to use genetic knowledge for their personal health management. Based on the results, the paper proposes a number of immediate steps that societies can implement to empower the public to benefit from everadvancing
genetic knowledge.

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open access


Genetic knowledge . Genetic literacy . Health . Genetic testing . Demographic differences

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7 March 2018Accepted
28 March 2018Published Online
30 January 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

16 Jul 2018 11:54

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:47

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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