How does the multifactorial model relate to the diagnosis of illness?

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The concept of a multifactorial model stems from the multifactorial inheritance theories studied by Mendel contemporary Sir Francis Galton. He, like Mendel, was one of the first proponents of genetics as contributing factors that help predict the possibility of developing illness. We now know that he was on the right track, after all.

However, aside from genetics, ccurrent research has shown that illness and its prevention are related to a variety of factors that affect human health. For this reason, science has moved away from just one source to detect, diagnose and even cure diseases. Instead, a holistic approach is being taken into consideration, showing clearly postmodern tendency toward health-care and medical research.

The postmodernist view entails that variables are always in place for each individual, and that illness does not prescribe. Hence, the multifactorial model was created to list and point out what are all the factors involved in the process of developing an illness.

These variables include:

  • incidence in the family - genetics, inheritance
  • environmental triggers- asbestos, agent orange, alcohol, drugs
  • epidemiology- pandemics, endemics, epidemics, who else is infected/affected in the immediate surroundings. How many more people are infected in the immediate area.
  • exposure to the illness- how close is this person to other infected people
  • psychology- is this person really sick or is it psychosomatic (caused by mental trauma, mimicking an illness)
  • socioeconomic background- is the illness manifesting in an area where the diet is poor, or where there is no availability for meds? Could it have been prevented if more resources had been in place?

All of these factors contribute to the onset and spread of illness. Let's look at cancer as an example of a multifactorial condition.

Not everybody develops cancer. However, anybody can develop it with the proper factors in place.

  • incidence- cancer can be a genetic flaw and could be inherited. The more cancer deaths in a given family, the more there may be.
  • environmental triggers- is the patient a smoker? Is there chronic use of alcohol or other substances? Is there second-hand smoke exposure? Is the area where the patient lives prone to minimal radioactive exposure?
  • epidemiology- if there are more than 3 cases in the same ratio, what is causing it? Is it internal changes caused by external factors?
  • exposure- although cancer is not contagious, the behaviors of some people who expose themselves to it can certainly be just as dangerously contagious: extreme tanners, people with terrible diet habits, chain-smokers hanging out together, etc.
  • psychology- it is said that people can develop illnesses that they are not otherwise prone to develop as a result of extreme stress, depression, or overall negative thinking. It is hard to quantify, but stress is related to some forms of cancer.
  • socioeconomic background- some forms of cancer are preventable with proper education on living well and leading a healthy lifestyle. If a chaotic background is suspected, the patient will likely become ill, or not get cured.

Therefore, the multifactorial model basically helps predict, assess, and even prevent illnesses by looking at all the possible factors that affect patients in their daily lives.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question