ISG faculty Christina Palmer, Janet Sinsheimer, and Wayne Grody along with ISG associates Michelle Fox and Patrick Boudreault and their colleagues published a paper, “Deaf Genetic Testing and Psychological Well-Being in Deaf Adults” in February’s Journal of Genetic Counseling.
Abstract: Limited data suggest that enhanced self-knowledge from genetic information related to non-medical traits can have a positive impact on psychological well-being. Deaf individuals undertake genetic testing for deaf genes to increase self-knowledge. Because deafness is considered a non-medical trait by many individuals, we hypothesized that deaf individuals receiving a genetic explanation for why they are deaf will experience increased psychological well-being. We report results from a prospective, longitudinal study to determine the impact of genetic testing (GJB2, Cx26; GJB6, Cx30) on perceived personal control (PPC), anxiety, and depression in deaf adults (N = 209) assessed following pre-test genetic counseling as well as 1-month and 6-months following test result disclosure. Participants were classified as Cx positive (n = 82) or Cx negative/inconclusive (n = 127). There was significant evidence for Cx group differences in PPC and anxiety over time (PPC: Cx group*time interaction p = 0.0007; anxiety: Cx group*time interaction p = 0.002), where PPC scores were significantly higher, and anxiety scores were significantly lower for the Cx positive group relative to the negative/inconclusive group following test result disclosure. Compared to pre-test, PPC scores increased at 1-month (p = 0.07) and anxiety scores decreased at 6-months (p = 0.03) for the Cx positive group. In contrast, PPC scores decreased (p = 0.009, p < 0.0001) and anxiety scores increased (p = 0.09, p = 0.02) for the Cx negative/inconclusive group at 1- and 6-months post test result disclosure. Genetic testing for deaf genes affects the psychological well-being of deaf individuals. Increasing deaf adults’ access to genetic testing may potentially enhance self-knowledge and increase psychological well-being for those who receive a genetic explanation, which could offer downstream health benefits.