eCite Digital Repository

Human genetics and inheritance: Biological, social, cultural, and environmental perspectives


Taylor, S, Human genetics and inheritance: Biological, social, cultural, and environmental perspectives, Health, Illness and Well-being, Oxford University Press, P Liamputtong, R Fanany and G Verrinder (ed), South Melbourne, pp. 57-75. ISBN 978-0-19-557612-2 (2012) [Research Book Chapter]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2011 Oxford University Press

Official URL:


Genetic makeup is an important foundational factor that interrelates with a wide range of social, cultural, and environmental influences to determine people's health and well-being over the course of their lives. A person's genetic makeup does not operate in a vacuum or in isolation but rather in a complex web of interaction with many other factors in a person's internal and external environments. A person's individual and psychological makeup (age, life stage, and genetic makeup) is in constant interaction with multiple other factors ranging from very broad social, cultural, and socio-economic circumstances that determine so many of the contexts within which people operate right down to their own individual behaviour and unique biomedical characteristics like blood pressure or body weight. It is a complex and dynamic picture that changes over fhe course of a person's life.

Having a clear and accurate understanding of what determines and influences people's health and illness is fundamental for people who aim to work in the contemporary healthcare field. How we understand health and illness will inform the beliefs and attitudes we bring to our professional practice with people, the skills that we use to engage with them, and ultimately our capacity to maximise their health whether this be at an individual level or in communities and broader populations.

This chapter focuses on genes and genetic makeup, in interaction with a wide range of other factors, as determinants of health. The first part of the chapter introduces and reviews some basic genetic concepts within the contemporary context of human genetic science including the Human Genome Project. The roles played by genes and genetic mutations in the development of genetic conditions and disorders are outlined and genetic DNA testing is described. The second part of the chapter examines how people's genetic makeup interacts with a wide range of other factors in their psychological and social environments. Special attention is given to looking at how people's decisions and responses to their genetic makeup are moderated by factors like culture, socio-economic status, age, gender, and beliefs, to ultimately determine their health outcomes. The importance for health practitioners to acknowledge the complex picture of health determinants, only one of which is genetic makeup, and to understand people's subjective beliefs and experiences, is highlighted. Finally, a discussion of genetic discrimination shows how broad societal and political factors also operate as determinants of health and well-being.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Research Division:Indigenous Studies
Research Group:Other Indigenous studies
Research Field:Other Indigenous studies not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Evaluation of health and support services
Objective Field:Social structure and health
UTAS Author:Taylor, S (Professor Sandy Taylor)
ID Code:76353
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:Sociology and Social Work
Deposited On:2012-03-05
Last Modified:2014-04-23

Repository Staff Only: item control page