Stigmatising attitudes towards people with mental disorders: changes in Australia over 8 years

Psychiatry Res. 2012 May 30;197(3):302-6. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2012.01.011. Epub 2012 Mar 13.


The aim of the study was to investigate whether Australians' stigmatising attitudes towards people with mental disorders have changed over an 8-year period. In 2011, telephone interviews were carried out with 6019 Australians aged 15 or over. The survey interview used the same questions as those of the 2003/4 national mental health literacy survey, in which participants were presented with a case vignette describing either depression, depression with suicidal thoughts, early schizophrenia or chronic schizophrenia. Questions were asked about stigmatising attitudes, including personal and perceived stigma and social distance. Results showed decreases in social distance scores for all vignettes other than chronic schizophrenia and increases in beliefs about dangerousness and unpredictability. Campaigns to improve mental health literacy and reduce stigmatising attitudes may have had beneficial effects in reducing the desire for social distance from those with mental disorders. However, increase in beliefs about the dangerousness and unpredictability of those with these disorders is of concern and points to the need for public education to address these aspects of stigma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Australia
  • Data Collection / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Literacy / trends*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Prejudice
  • Social Distance
  • Social Stigma*