What Are Multifactorial Disorders?

As their name implies, multifactorial diseases, or multifactorial inheritance, are conditions that are caused by multiple factors.1 These can include a wide range of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental causes. Multifactorial diseases don’t have a clear cut inheritance pattern; however, a genetic risk for these diseases can greatly increase your chances of developing them.

Researchers have found that most diseases have a genetic component, even if other factors play a role in their development.2 Some of the most common diseases in the world display a multifactorial pattern, including:

  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Heart failure
  • Asthma
  • Chronic respiratory diseases
  • Allergies
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Skin conditions
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Epilepsy
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Different types of cancer
  • Neural tube defects
  • Hip dysplasia

There are modifiable and non-modifiable factors that play an important role in the development of different multifactorial diseases. The main type of non-modifiable risk factors are genetic. While you can’t modify your genetic inheritance, you can change other circumstances in your life that increase or decrease these risks. Other non-modifiable factors include age, gender, and ethnicity.

Modifiable risk factors, on the other hand, can vary widely. Many of the most important are related to your behavior, lifestyle, and environment. These factors can determine whether or not you will actually develop a disease for which you have a genetic predisposition.

Genetic Factors

As mentioned above, there are different types of genetic inheritance patterns. Inherited disorders are primarily caused by genetics, but other types of diseases are also related to genetics. Multifactorial diseases don’t depend exclusively on your DNA, but certain genetic mutations can still increase your risk.

Genetic risks are passed down through generations 3 from parents to their children. Disorders usually caused by mutations in a single gene are known as Mendelian disorders. Multifactorial diseases, on the other hand, are typically influenced by small alterations in multiple genes.

Whole genome sequencing can help you pinpoint whether you are at risk for multifactorial diseases. This sequencing technology is used in many different fields, including personalized and preventive medicine. It gathers information from your entire DNA sequence and can help you understand how your genes affect your life, health, and future.

Environmental and Lifestyle Factors

The environmental and lifestyle factors that influence disease development are largely modifiable. The good news is that, in most cases, you can modify these risk factors through healthy lifestyle changes.

Some of the most important environmental and lifestyle risk factors include:

  • Nutrition
  • Physical activity level
  • Weight
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Alcohol and tobacco consumption
  • Drug consumption
  • Pollution exposure
  • Smoking
  • Certain medications

Dealing with Multifactorial Disorders

One of the most helpful things about whole genome sequencing is that your results can be used to provide personalized recommendations. These recommendations can help you improve your lifestyle and take preventative measures 4 to reduce your risk of certain diseases, especially those for which you have a high predisposition.

Understanding your predispositions helps you identify which risks you need to prioritize to stay healthy in the long run. Once you know your risks, you will be able to identify the lifestyle changes you need to make to lower your chances of developing specific diseases.

Of course, we should all try to create habits that lead to a healthy life. But knowing your predispositions helps you focus your efforts towards more efficient changes.

For example, someone with a high predisposition towards type II diabetes may want to stop consuming added sugars and choose to become more physically active. Meanwhile, a person with an increased risk for lung cancer may decide to attend regular checkups with their specialist and avoid smoking and pollution. 

Over time, medicine has shifted its focus and placed more importance on preventive health.5 Modern medical technologies, including genomics and whole genome sequencing, have made it possible to better understand how diseases can be prevented long before they happen. Prioritizing preventative health benefits individuals and communities by improving wellbeing and productivity, and lowering healthcare costs.

After all, preventing illnesses is typically simpler and much more affordable than treating them.

Preventive Plan Using Whole Genome Sequencing

After taking a whole genome sequencing test, you’ll receive a comprehensive report detailing your genetic information. This report includes details on your susceptibility to different multifactorial diseases.

Sequencing.com features an enhanced marketplace where you will find many options to fit your specific health needs. Although these reports include detailed genetic information, they will still be easy to understand and provide insights that you can incorporate into your daily life to become healthier.

Your personalized reports will include specific recommendations aimed to help you understand your present and future health, and the habits you need to modify in order to reduce your risk of disease. You can also discuss these reports with your primary healthcare provider so they know how to provide personalized care and preventive recommendations that fit your needs.

Additionally, you can check out our Rare Disease Screen Bundle, which analyzes 100% of your DNA data to screen for genetic mutations associated with more than 10,000 diseases, traits, syndromes, and conditions.


  1. Medical Genetics: Multifactorial Inheritance - Health Encyclopedia - University of Rochester Medical Center. (n.d.). Retrieved September 4, 2022, from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=90&contentid=p02134 
  2. What are complex or multifactorial disorders?: MedlinePlus Genetics. (n.d.). Retrieved September 4, 2022, from https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/mutationsanddisorders/complexdisorders/ 
  3. Genetic Risk. (n.d.). Retrieved September 4, 2022, from https://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/history/geneticrisk 
  4. What is Preventive Medicine? | ACPM. (n.d.). Retrieved September 6, 2022, from https://www.acpm.org/about-acpm/what-is-preventive-medicine/ 
  5. Reeves, L. Shift Health System’s Focus From Profit to Prevention. (2019). Retrieved September 5, 2022, from https://www.aafp.org/news/blogs/leadervoices/entry/20190221lv-change.html 

About The Author

Dr. Brandon Colby MD is a US physician specializing in the personalized prevention of disease through the use of genomic technologies. He’s an expert in genetic testing, genetic analysis, and precision medicine. Dr. Colby is also the Founder of Sequencing.com and the author of Outsmart Your Genes.

Dr. Colby holds an MD from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, and a degree in Genetics with Honors from the University of Michigan. He is an Affiliate Specialist of the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (⁠ACMG), an Associate of the American College of Preventive Medicine (⁠ACPM), and a member of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (⁠NSGC).

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