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.  

What DNA testing services does Living DNA offer?

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: 

  • A taster of its recent ancestry analysis, with eight global regions
  • Optional access to the Family Matching Service
  • An example Wellbeing report showing whether you are predisposed to a Vitamin D deficiency
  • An example Fitness report showing what type of exercise your muscles are predisposed to respond to

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: 

  • Motherline — Maternal haplogroup results
  • Fatherline — Paternal haplogroup results (men only)
  • Recent Family — An ethnicity breakdown of your recent ancestry with 150 worldwide regions
  • DNA matches with living relatives (requires opt-in)
  • Updated ethnicity results as research advances

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: 

  • Oceana — 2
  • Native America — 4
  • Europe East — 8
  • Great Britain and Ireland — 21
  • Europe (North and West) — 5
  • Europe South — 9
  • Near East — 7
  • Asia Central — 4
  • Asia South — 7
  • Asia East — 8
  • North Africa — 10
  • West Africa Niger-Congo — 17
  • Central-West African Niger-Congo — 4
  • East Africa Niger-Congo — 9
  • East African Nilo-Saharan — 6
  • East African Afro-Asiatic — 10
  • Central African Hunter-Gatherers — 3
  • Southern African Khoisan — 5
  • Southern African Niger-Congo — 8

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: 

  • Endurance
  • Vitamins
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Celiac disease
  • Carb and sugar responses
  • Max strength
  • Recovery speed
  • Tendon durability
  • Omega 3s
  • Nutrition advice
  • Exercise suggestions
  • Recovery and cooldown recommendations

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. 

How does Living DNA's testing process work?

  1. Choose a DNA kit and purchase it online at Living DNA.com.
  2. The kit ships out within two days of your purchase and will arrive in five to ten business days (for U.S. customers).
  3. Activate your kit on the Living DNA website.
  4. Collect your cheek swab sample.
  5. Return your sample with the prepaid postage bag.
  6. Once your sample arrives back at the lab, it can take six to eight weeks for processing. In busy seasons, it can take up to 12 weeks. 
  7. Once your results are ready, you will get an email about how to view them online.

Keep reading for pros and cons of choosing Living DNA's testing services. 

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The Good

  • Cheek Swab Sample
  • $99 Three-Part Ancestry Test
  • Autosomal DNA Test Strengths
  • Refund Policy
  • Free Data Upload
  • Upgrade Options
  • Raw Data Download
  • Emphasis on Data Privacy
  • $69 Ancestry Book Option
  • Updated Results

Cheek Swab Sample

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.

$99 Three-Part Ancestry Test

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. 

1. Recent Ancestry 

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: 

  • A percentage breakdown showing which of 150+ global populations your genetic makeup is most similar to 
  • Measures up to 10 generations or 500 years back
  • Results include a family migration map, where available

2. Extended/Deep Ancestry Test

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. 

Motherline Test

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. 

Fatherline Test 

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. 

3. Family Networks

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. 

How does Living DNA's three-part ancestry test compare to the products offered by other DNA testing companies?

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. 

Autosomal DNA Test Strengths

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. 

Great Britain and Ireland

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: 

  • Aberdeenshire
  • Central England
  • Cornwall
  • Cumbria
  • Devon
  • East Anglia
  • Ireland
  • Lincolnshire
  • North Wales
  • North Yorkshire
  • Northern Ireland and Southwest Scotland
  • Northumbria
  • Northwest England
  • Northwest Scotland
  • Orkney and the Shetland Islands
  • South Central England
  • South England
  • South Wales
  • South Wales Border
  • South Yorkshire
  • Southeast England

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: 

  1. England, Wales, and Northwestern Europe
  2. Ireland and Scotland

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. 

Africa

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. 

Refund Policy

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. 

  • If you opted for upgraded shipping, express delivery fees are not refundable.
  • If your DNA kit has been activated, but processing has not started, a refund is offered, less 15% administrative charge. 
  • If your DNA kit has started processing at the lab, you cannot get a refund. 

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: 

  • When your first sample fails, you can get a new kit, free of charge, from the provider or get a refund less 25% for shipping and handling. 
  • If your second kit fails, you can get a new kit at no additional cost, or get a refund less 50%. 
  • After three samples have failed, you will not be eligible for a new kit or a refund. 

Free Data Upload

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: 

  • AncestryDNA
  • 23andMe
  • MyHeritage DNA
  • Family Tree DNA (Family Finder)
  • Illumina
  • Gene by Gene
  • National Geographic (Geno 2.0)

Accepted file types include: 

  • .txt
  • .csv
  • .zip
  • .gz

Upgrade Options

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: 

  • Recent Ancestry upgrade — Instead of a continental breakdown, your ethnicity results can be expanded to more precise regions. 
  • Full Ancestry upgrade — Add maternal line (mtDNA) results and paternal line (YDNA) results (men only).
  • Wellbeing upgrade — Add results about your predisposition for several lifestyle traits, to better understand your wellbeing (Coming Soon).

Note: Digital service upgrades are non-refundable. 

Raw Data Download

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. 

Emphasis on Data Privacy

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: 

  • You retain ownership of your genetic data
  • Your data is fully deletable
  • Your genetic information is processed and stored using an identifying barcode
  • The lab doesn't even receive your name
  • Participation in research requires your consent
  • You must opt-in to participate in DNA matching
  • Living DNA never sells customer data

$69 Ancestry Book Option

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. 

Updated Results

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. 

The Bad

  • Men Get More Results
  • No Book Cancellation
  • Less Popular in the United States

Men Get More Results

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. 

No Book Cancellation

The book is custom-made for you, so you can't cancel it.

Less Popular in the United States

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. 

The Bottom Line

Living DNA offers a lot of genetic data for $99. Its three-fold genealogical DNA test offers autosomal DNA testing, as well as mtDNA haplogroup and Y-DNA haplogroup results. In addition to genetic ancestry testing, it also offers tests for nutrition and fitness through its new Wellbeing service. 

If you are purchasing a DNA test as a gift, with less focus on digital results and online DNA matches, this is a great option because you can upgrade to have a book published about the taker's ancestry results when you purchase.

If you are looking for a detailed breakdown of your genetic origins in Africa, the United Kingdom, or Ireland, this test offers lots of detail, when compared to other similarly priced ancestry testing options on the market. 

Have you taken a Living DNA test? Would you recommend this company to a friend? Let us know about your experience with a quick review below. 

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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.

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