World survey of mental illness stigma

J Affect Disord. 2016 Jan 15:190:115-121. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.10.011. Epub 2015 Oct 22.


Objective: To obtain rapid and reproducible opinions that address mental illness stigma around the world.

Method: Random global Web users were exposed to brief questions, asking whether they interacted daily with someone with mental illness, whether they believed that mental illness was associated with violence, whether it was similar to physical illness, and whether it could be overcome.

Results: Over a period of 1.7 years, 596,712 respondents from 229 countries completed the online survey. The response rate was 54.3%. China had the highest proportion of respondents in daily contact with a person with mental illness. In developed countries, 7% to 8% of respondents endorsed the statement that individuals with mental illness were more violent than others, in contrast to 15% or 16% in developing countries. While 45% to 51% of respondents from developed countries believed that mental illness was similar to physical illness, only 7% believed that mental illness could be overcome. To test for reproducibility, 21 repeats of the same questions were asked monthly in India for 21 months. Each time, 10.1 ± 0.11% s.e., of respondents endorsed the statement that persons who suffer from mental illness are more violent than others, indicating strong reproducibility of response.

Conclusion: This study shows that surveys of constructs such as stigma towards mental illness can be carried out rapidly and repeatedly across the globe, so that the impact of policy interventions can be readily measured.

Limitations: The method engages English speakers only, mainly young, educated males.

Keywords: Depression; Discrimination; Global; Internet; Mental illness; Psychosis; Stigma; Survey.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • China
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • India
  • Internationality*
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Social Stigma*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Violence