The measurement properties of stigmatizing attitudes towards mental disorders: results from two community surveys

Int J Methods Psychiatr Res. 2014 Mar;23(1):49-61. doi: 10.1002/mpr.1433. Epub 2014 Feb 18.


Stigma is a well-documented concern of people living with mental illness. Through the use of novel exploratory structural equation modelling (ESEM) methods, we aimed to elucidate the structure of stigma as measured by two stigma scales (the Depression Stigma Scale and the Social Distance Scale), to establish dimensions of stigma towards a range of disorders and to compare levels on these dimensions between disorders and respondent subgroups. We used data from two Australian national surveys, one of the general community aged 15+ and another of youths aged 15-25. Stigma responses were elicited using a range of mental illness vignettes: depression, schizophrenia, social phobia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). ESEM revealed that the structure of stigmatizing attitudes in young people and adults is comparable in personally held attitudes and those perceived in others. Personal and perceived stigma formed distinct dimensions with each comprising "Weak-not-sick" and "Dangerous/unpredictable" components. The social distance dimension of stigma was separate from other components of stigma, supporting the appropriateness of the existing Social Distance Scale. Scales reflecting these dimensions had different patterns of association with respondent age and gender, and the type of mental disorder portrayed in the vignette.

Keywords: exploratory structural equation modelling; mental illness; social distance; stigma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Attitude
  • Australia
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Data Collection*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Social Stigma
  • Stereotyping*
  • Young Adult