Impact of Communicating Familial Risk of Diabetes on Illness Perceptions and Self-Reported Behavioral Outcomes

A randomized controlled trial

  1. Miranda Pijl, MSC1,2,
  2. Danielle R.M. Timmermans, PHD1,2,
  3. Liesbeth Claassen, MSC1,2,
  4. A. Cecile J.W. Janssens, PHD3,
  5. Giel Nijpels, MD, PHD1,4,
  6. Jacqueline M. Dekker, PHD2,
  7. Theresa M. Marteau, PHD5 and
  8. Lidewij Henneman, PHD1,2
  1. 1Department of Public and Occupational Health, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands;
  2. 2EMGO Institute, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands;
  3. 3Department of Public Health, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands;
  4. 4Department of General Practice, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands;
  5. 5Psychology and Genetics Research Group, King's College, London, U.K.
  1. Corresponding author: Miranda Pijl, m.pijl{at}


OBJECTIVE To assess the potential effectiveness of communicating familial risk of diabetes on illness perceptions and self-reported behavioral outcomes.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS Individuals with a family history of diabetes were randomized to receive risk information based on familial and general risk factors (n = 59) or general risk factors alone (n = 59). Outcomes were assessed using questionnaires at baseline, 1 week, and 3 months.

RESULTS Compared with individuals receiving general risk information, those receiving familial risk information perceived heredity to be a more important cause of diabetes (P < 0.01) at 1-week follow-up, perceived greater control over preventing diabetes (P < 0.05), and reported having eaten more healthily (P = 0.01) after 3 months. Behavioral intentions did not differ between the groups.

CONCLUSIONS Communicating familial risk increased personal control and, thus, did not result in fatalism. Although the intervention did not influence intentions to change behavior, there was some evidence to suggest it increases healthy behavior.


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    • Received June 9, 2008.
    • Accepted December 30, 2008.
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  1. Diabetes Care vol. 32 no. 4 597-599
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