23andMe Asks About DNA

A new survey found that most Americans are interested in using DNA testing to understand more about their health and ancestry, but the national survey also revealed a need for better education around the science of genetics.

Commissioned by 23andMe, the survey found that people had a strong interest in genetics, but that interest was out ahead of their understanding of the science. Many people still struggle with basic genetic concepts, according to the survey. This gap in genetic literacy follows similar findings around the need for improved science literacy in the United States.

Thao Do, PhD, 23andMe Education and Academia Program Manager, sees that gap between interest in genetics and knowledge about genetics as an opportunity, for engaging with people on the science.

“It presents an opportunity to educate people in fun and interesting ways,” said Thao.

Genetic testing itself offers people an engaging way not just to learn more about their health and ancestry, but also the science behind their results.

The survey offered some striking contrasts between people expressing a strong desire to tap into potential insights obtained by genetic testing, while at the same time illustrating that they did not fully understand the science behind the tests. For example, nearly three-fourths of those surveyed (74 percent) said they were interested in testing, but about the same percentage of people (75 percent) didn’t know that humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes.

But most most Americans, about 77 percent, know that genetics plays a role in the risk for certain diseases, and about 90 percent of respondents knew that DNA testing could inform them about their ancestry. The vast majority of Americans, 94 percent, said that whether it is information about their health, or ancestry, or traits, that they feel they have a right to at-home DNA testing to directly access this type of genetic information.

23andMe partnered with Kelton Global to generate the 23andMe DNA Survey, which was conducted between July 5th, 2017 and July 12th, 2017 among 1,000 nationally representative Americans ages 18+, using an e-mail invitation and an online survey, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.