Does psychiatric genetic counselling affect hospitalizations?

A man in a counselling session

Data access has been granted for a study to investigate whether psychiatric genetic counseling influences recipients’ mental health, specifically whether it impacts the frequency and duration of psychiatric-related hospitalizations.

Psychiatric disorders are common conditions that cumulatively affect one in four Canadians. They are complex in etiology, arising from a combination of genetic and environmental influences.

University of British Columbia faculty Dr. Jehannine Austin, Professor, and Emily Morris, Genetic Counselor and Clinical Associate Professor, are leading the matched cohort study.

“Over the last decade, we have been studying the effects of genetic counseling for people with psychiatric disorders and their families, and have demonstrated substantial increases in reported levels of empowerment and self-efficacy,” says Professor Morris. “These are important outcomes, as both are necessary in order for people to engage in behaviour change that may help to protect mental health.”

The information-gathering element of psychiatric genetic counseling involves uncovering the patient’s existing explanation for the cause of illness, understanding their current illness management strategies, and eliciting and documenting a detailed psychiatric family history. A patient’s existing explanation for the cause of their condition is fundamentally important to genetic counseling because patients’ existing explanations of cause often invoke emotional reactions (e.g. guilt, shame), which can influence how people engage with treatment.

By exploring whether psychiatric genetic counseling's influences on mental health results in a decrease in hospitalizations, the results of this study could have economic impacts on healthcare delivery. “The data could be potentially used to advocate for more psychiatric genetic counseling services across Canada and internationally, which could ultimately save healthcare dollars, and result in fewer psychiatric related hospitalizations,” concludes Professor Morris.

For this project PopData will link five data sets from the BC Ministry of Health with Researcher-collected data from two previous clinical research studies by Professor Austin.