The Acute Impact of Risk Information for Schizophrenia: Ethical Implications of Psychometric Screening
Background: In the psychometric high-risk paradigm, contrary to the principle of informed consent, participants are not usually informed of their risk status. One argument for this nondisclosure is that risk information may engender significant distress. Objective: The aims were to investigate this argument and to examine the reactions of non-help seeking individuals to disclosure of personally relevant information about risk for schizophrenia. It was expected that the impact of news of risk for schizophrenia would be similar to that associated with cancer and greater than that associated with depression and a neutral control condition. It was also expected that stigma consciousness and health locus of control would predict distress arising from the news. Method: Participants (N = 160) underwent screening in a deception paradigm (thioamine acetylase enzyme deficiency) during which the participants were led to believe they had an enzyme deficiency that was benign (neutral control) or associated with elevated risk for schizophrenia, cancer, or depression. Participants provided subjective mood ratings, salivary cortisol pre- and post-manipulation, and rated beliefs about stigmatisation and health locus of control. Results: Low levels of subjective and objective distress were observed. There was no evidence that the impact of news differed across groups or that health locus of control predicted distress. Greater expectations of being stigmatised predicted greater deterioration in self-reported mood. Conclusions: The study helps to progress the research available on schizotypy screening and contributes to the debate surrounding this area. Given the findings, it is possible that the concern participants could experience distress upon receiving news of risk may not be well-founded.
Advisor: Linscott , Richard
Degree Name: Master of Science
Degree Discipline: Psychology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Schizophrenia; Risk news; Screening
Research Type: Thesis