Living DNA is a DNA testing service that was launched in 2016 by DNA Worldwide Group (founded in 2004). Based in Somerset, England, the company offers DNA kits and testing for ancestry and wellbeing. When the company launched, the focus was on providing detailed results for people with ancestry in the British Isles. It has since expanded its product to include more and more detail for people with heritage across the world, including new (2020) and improved African analysis, capable of distinguishing more than seventy ethnic groups throughout the continent.
This company offers three basic DNA tests, as well as a bundled package. Here's what you will get with each testing service:
Starter Kit ($49 + Shipping)
For people interested in DNA testing, but not sure what to try first, Living DNA's starter kit provides the following:
Once your test results are available, you will be able to pay for upgrades through your account, without providing another DNA sample.
Ancestry Kit ($99 + Shipping)
Living DNA's full-service Ancestry Kit, previously known as the 3-in-1 Ancestry Kit, combines all three common types of ancestral DNA testing: Y chromosome DNA (Y-DNA), mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), and autosomal DNA testing. This test's results will include the following:
Living DNA uses a unique DNA Constellations method to break down your Recent Family results into more than 150 regions, including 72 available regions in Africa and 21 in the British Isles alone. Here is an overview:
Wellbeing Kit ($129 + Shipping)
The Living DNA Wellbeing test aims to help people understand how genetics influence lifestyle. It provides an analysis of specific genetic traits to help you understand how your body reacts to different foods and types of exercise, as well as your body's predisposed strengths and weaknesses in the realm of health and fitness. Test-takers learn how to improve their wellbeing with nutritional and fitness insights.
The test covers a variety of traits and provides recommendations where applicable. Topics covered include the following:
Users also have the option to opt-in to the Family Networks feature to be connected with living biological relatives, without having to pay for either the Starter or the full Ancestry test. However, if you want to add the full Ancestry experience after your Wellbeing results are ready, you can upgrade through your account.
Note: Health screening or carrier screening for genetic markers related to disease are not offered.
Wellbeing and Ancestry ($179 + Shipping)
If you know that you are interested in both services, this bundled option saves you money and includes everything offered in both the Ancestry and Wellbeing DNA kit services.
Keep reading for pros and cons of choosing Living DNA's testing services.
This company's DNA test kit uses the mouth swab sample method to collect your DNA sample. Many test-takers find the swab method an easier at-home test to do than the saliva sample (known as a "spit kit") that the AncestryDNA kit, and many other testing companies, require.
For $99, this test offers Y-DNA and mtDNA results as well as autosomal. This means that you can learn about your ancient ancestors, as well as your recent genetic genealogy within the last seven to ten generations, all from one test.
For recent family analysis, autosomal DNA testing is used to analyze DNA that you have inherited from your mother and father combined. Results include the following:
Also referred to as deep ancestry analysis, this portion of the test provides information about your ancestors' migration out of Africa, going back tens of thousands of years.
Using mtDNA testing, this will report your maternal haplogroup. Your X chromosome contains mtDNA, which is inherited unchanged from your mother and your mother's mother and so on. All people with the same haplogroup share a common ancestor, tracing back tens of thousands of years.
Using Y-DNA testing, this analysis will provide your paternal haplogroup and explain its history. This type of DNA is passed from father to son, unchanged. That's why it can be traced back tens of thousands of years, providing information about the migration pattern your paternal ancestors took.
Note: Only men will receive paternal haplogroup results. Women interested in learning about their deep paternal ancestry can have a male family member tested to get this information.
In addition to providing analysis of your geographic and ethnic origins in recent and ancient history, this testing service can help you find relatives that are living today. Currently, Family Networks matches you with people who are 7th-degree relatives and closer. Users will have the option to message matches through the Living DNA platform.
You must opt-in to Family Networks to get DNA matches. This gives people who value privacy the option to reap the benefits of the test's ethnic analysis, while not having to participate in matching with DNA relatives, whatever the reason may be.
Note: Family Networks is not an option for testers under 18, even if the test was properly purchased and authorized by a parent or guardian.
AncestryDNA — For the same price ($99), this genealogy company's flagship DNA product only offers autosomal analysis, providing users with an ethnicity breakdown and DNA relative matches. No deep ancestry (haplogroup) analysis is offered. However, its pool of potential DNA matches is one of the largest databases available and its ethnicity breakdown includes more than 1,000 possible classifications: 60 genetic regions and 900+ subgroups called Communities, which show possible recent migration routes. Interpretation and interactive online features also differ.
23andMe — For the same price ($99), 23andMe offers the Ancestry + Traits service. Similar to Living DNA, this company's basic ancestry product tests include the same basic three types of DNA analysis: autosomal, mtDNA, and Y-DNA. The recent ancestry portion of the test includes a percentage breakdown, with more than 1,500 possible ethnicity regions and DNA matching. Maternal and paternal haplogroups are also provided. Plus, 23andMe includes analysis for Neanderthal ancestry and 30+ genetic trait reports. However, each company's online platform differs, with unique features and different ways of visually displaying and explaining the results. Additionally, testing algorithms and the complexity of different regional breakdowns differ.
When it comes to autosomal ethnicity analysis, there are a few areas of the world where Living DNA can offer more detailed results than other competitors. Specific examples can be seen when looking at the company's autosomal panels for the British Isles and Africa.
Living DNA's original mission was to provide people with the most detailed breakdown in the British Isles. As a result, the company is able to provide customers with percentages of their autosomal DNA that come from 21 different subgroups in the region:
Compared to other available autosomal DNA testing available on the market, this analysis offers much more detail. Here are a couple of examples:
AncestryDNA's ethnicity estimate breaks down the same area into two regions, showing what percentage of your DNA comes from the following genetic populations:
Within those regions, Ancestry does offer more than 150 Genetic Community affiliations, showing migrations and cultural groups from the 1700s on; however, the analysis doesn't provide a percentage and not all customers get assigned to a community.
23andMe's Ancestry Composition report breaks down the percentages of your DNA that come from 45 different reference populations, placed roughly 500 years ago. Your breakdown will show British and Irish if your DNA has origins in this area.
This company also provides Recent Ancestor Locations, showing where your ancestors likely lived in the last 200 years. The larger British and Irish group contains three available recent ancestor location subgroups: United Kingdom, Ireland, and Guernsey.
Due to a recent update, Living DNA's ancestry DNA test can now break down your DNA into percentages inherited from 72 different African regions and subgroups.
In comparison, AncestryDNA's autosomal test analysis provides 11 African genetic populations and 23andMe breaks the area down into 13 regions, with additional 10+ Recent Ancestor Location subgroups.
With Living DNA, you can cancel your order for a full refund prior to it being dispatched for shipping. Additionally, you can cancel the service within 14 days of receiving a shipping/dispatch notice for your testing kits.
What happens if your DNA sample fails?
As with all DNA testing companies, sometimes the first sample you submit isn't good enough. In the event that they need a new sample, this company offers up to three rounds of testing:
Consumers have the opportunity to upload raw DNA data from other testing services to Living DNA's platform. Within 48 hours, you can get access to Living DNA's interpretation of your genetic data.
How does this benefit you?
Each DNA testing company uses its own algorithm to translate your A's, T's, G's, and C's into digestible information about your genetic ancestry. This gives you another opportunity to view an expert interpretation of your DNA — all without purchasing another DNA kit.
If your motivation to take a DNA test in the first place was to connect with living relatives, you can upload your data file to take advantage of this company's Family Networks feature, free of charge. It offers another pool of possible DNA matches for you to potentially connect with.
Uploaders will get the Starter Kit experience and can upgrade to add more analysis. Once you upgrade, it will take about 72 hours for the full results to be updated.
Living DNA accepts autosomal file uploads from the following third-party genetic testing companies:
Accepted file types include:
If you have already taken a Living DNA test, you will have the option to upgrade your results rather than having to submit a new sample to get additional results. For example, if you have only done the Starter Kit, you will be able to upgrade through your account. There are several options for users:
Note: Digital service upgrades are non-refundable.
Users will also have access to download their Living DNA raw data files at no additional charge. This includes downloads for your autosomal test, mtDNA test, and YDNA test.
This means that with the $49 starter kit, while mtDNA and YDNA aren't analyzed, you still can get access to your raw autosomal data file for one of the lowest prices in the industry.
What does this mean for you?
If you are looking into DNA testing to be connected with living biological relatives, you can get started for just $49. From there, you can upload to sites like GEDMATCH, and others, for free to add your DNA to the database.
Since its start, Living DNA has put an emphasis on customer privacy. Based in the United Kingdom, the company is subject to the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). On its website, Living DNA states:
"At Living DNA we take the job of being custodians of your data very seriously. We’re committed to your privacy and security at all times."
In addition to GDPR compliance, when you take a DNA test with Living DNA, the following protections apply:
Like African Ancestry, this DNA service gives customers the option to purchase a printed, color book with detailed information about their genetic ancestry. Many people want more than just a digital result when they are learning about their family history. They want something tangible to show to their family. This is another reason to look into Living DNA.
For $69, you get a hardback coffee table book, which can be bundled into your initial DNA kit purchase or ordered later, after you get your results.
The length of each person's book varies, based on how diverse your admixture is. For example, if your genes are only from one ethnicity region, your book will be shorter. However, if you have inherited DNA from lots of different parts of the world, your book will have more sections.
You need to have regional family results to get the book printed. This means that it isn't available with the Starter Kit. You have to upgrade to the full ancestry result first.
As Living DNA advances its ancestry research, members' results can be updated at no additional fee. For example, in February 2020, the company expanded its results for testers with African heritage to include 72 sub-regions. The expansion was lead by one of the company's researchers with a Ph.D. in African Population Genetics.
Users that have already purchased the full ancestry test and received their results will be notified of the update if they have more than 5 percent African heritage. The update takes about 48 hours to process.
There is one price and one test for both men and women; however, men get one-third more results, just because they have a Y chromosome.
This one is unavoidable. Similar DNA kits will have the same issue, including 23andMe's ancestry test.
The book is custom-made for you, so you can't cancel it.
If you are looking forward to getting genetic matches from your DNA testing kit, you should be aware that these will only be provided if users opt-in to Family Networks. Additionally, if DNA matches are your goal, this test is not as popular as some others available in the United States, making it less likely that you will have close relatives in its database.
However, Living DNA is an international company that sells its tests all over the world. Many people choose this company because it is based in Europe and has to adhere to the GDPR rules.
I didn't like this company very much because the results took so long and I feel like the process could've gone smoother overall.