Objectives: We assessed relationships between sociodemographic characteristics and mental health status and knowledge of, being worried about, and stigmatization of 2 emerging infectious diseases: AIDS and SARS.
Methods: We conducted a random-digit-dialed survey of 928 residents of the New York City metropolitan area as part of a study of the effects of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Questions added for this study concerned respondents' knowledge of, worry about, and support of stigmatizing actions to control AIDS and SARS.
Results: In general, respondents with greater personal resources (income, education, social support) and better mental health status had more knowledge, were less worried, and were less likely to stigmatize. This pattern held for both AIDS and SARS.
Conclusions: Personal resources and mental health factors are likely to influence the public's ability to learn about, rationally appraise the threat of, and minimize stigmatization of emerging infectious diseases such as AIDS and SARS.