Why members of the public self-test: An interview study

A. Ryan*, J. Ives, S. Wilson, S. Greenfield

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Background: A wide range of self-tests are available where contact with a health professional is not necessary. Objective: To investigate factors that influenced members of the public to use self-tests. Methods: Questionnaires, sent to 2335 adults from two general practices in North Birmingham, asked whether recipients had used self-tests and sought consent for contacting them about taking part in an interview. Twenty-three people were interviewed, 20 of whom had used self-tests. The interviews were transcribed verbatim, and a thematic analysis was conducted. Results: The findings were organized around two themes. 'Motivations for self-testing' describes the motivating factors surrounding participants' choices to use self-tests. This appeared to be influenced by a number of factors that were organized into four sub-themes: 'diagnosis or speculation', 'perceived benefits of self-testing', 'general attitudes to and experiences of health care' and 'general attitudes to health'. The second theme called 'experience of self-testing' describes participants' access to, and use of self-tests, and is split into three sub-themes: 'opportunistic awareness and access', 'use and application' and 'impact on life'. Conclusions: Overall, self-testing encompasses a broad variety of beliefs and experiences. Some participants saw self-tests as a serious diagnostic tool, whereas others used them out of simple curiosity. Some were motivated by their generally positive attitude to health, but others may have been motivated by negative health care experiences. Some saw self-testing as an empowering process to be proud of, while others seemed to view it as an illegitimate activity that needed to be hidden from professionals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-581
Number of pages12
JournalFamily Practice
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2010


  • Diagnosis
  • Routine diagnostic tests
  • Self-care


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