OBJECTIVE: Dispositional optimism and risk perceptions are each associated with health-related behaviors and decisions and other outcomes, but little research has examined how these constructs interact, particularly in consequential health contexts. The predictive validity of risk perceptions for health-related information seeking and intentions may be improved by examining dispositional optimism as a moderator, and by testing alternate types of risk perceptions, such as comparative and experiential risk.
METHOD: Participants (n = 496) had their genomes sequenced as part of a National Institutes of Health pilot cohort study (ClinSeq®). Participants completed a cross-sectional baseline survey of various types of risk perceptions and intentions to learn genome sequencing results for differing disease risks (e.g., medically actionable, nonmedically actionable, carrier status) and to use this information to change their lifestyle/health behaviors.
RESULTS: Risk perceptions (absolute, comparative, and experiential) were largely unassociated with intentions to learn sequencing results. Dispositional optimism and comparative risk perceptions interacted, however, such that individuals higher in optimism reported greater intentions to learn all 3 types of sequencing results when comparative risk was perceived to be higher than when it was perceived to be lower. This interaction was inconsistent for experiential risk and absent for absolute risk. Independent of perceived risk, participants high in dispositional optimism reported greater interest in learning risks for nonmedically actionable disease and carrier status, and greater intentions to use genome information to change their lifestyle/health behaviors.
CONCLUSIONS: The relationship between risk perceptions and intentions may depend on how risk perceptions are assessed and on degree of optimism.