Genetics: Risk or destiny?

Information is Beautiful Studio take a visual approach to exploring the complex relationships between our health, genes, lifestyle and environment.

In 1951 essayist Norman Cousins wrote: “The hand that is dealt you represents determinism. The way you play your hand represents free will.” He was writing about the nature of man, but it’s not unreasonable to extrapolate his thoughts to the part that our genes play in our health.

The genetic material we inherit from our parents may be a blueprint, an instruction book used to build our body and to keep it running, but – for most of us – it doesn’t determine our fate completely.

Although it’s true that some illnesses or conditions are the result of a single change in a particular gene, the causes of many of the most common conditions that affect us (including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers) are not as clear cut.

The life we lead, the food we eat and the environment we live in can have just as much of an effect as the genes we inherit – and often more. In these cases, our genes don’t so much dictate the events of our lives as contribute to the risk that a particular condition will affect us.

Mosaic worked with the Information is Beautiful Studio to explore the complex interaction between our genes, our environment and our behaviour. Scroll down to see the result and to find out why, for many medical conditions, our unique genetic make-up is more a matter of risk than destiny.

The mobile-responsive graphic…

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