"Thandi should feel embarrassed": describing the validity and reliability of a tool to measure depression-related stigma among patients with depressive symptoms in Malawi

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2022 Jun;57(6):1211-1220. doi: 10.1007/s00127-021-02202-w. Epub 2021 Nov 20.


Purpose: There are no validated tools in Malawi to measure mental health stigma. Accordingly, this study evaluates the validity and reliability of a short quantitative instrument to measure depression-related stigma in patients exhibiting depressive symptoms in Malawi.

Methods: The SHARP study began depression screening in 10 NCD clinics across Malawi in April 2019; recruitment is ongoing. Eligible participants were 18-65 years, had a patient health questionnaire (PHQ-9) score ≥ 5, and were new or current diabetes or hypertension patients. Participants completed a baseline questionnaire that measured depression-related stigma, depressive symptoms, and sociodemographic information. The stigma instrument included a vignette of a depressed woman named Thandi, and participants rated their level of agreement with statements about Thandi's situation in nine prompts on a 5-point Likert scale. Inter-item reliability was assessed with Cronbach's alpha. Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was used to assess structural validity, and OLS regression models were used to assess convergent and divergent validity between measured levels of depression-related stigma and covariates.

Results: The analysis of patient responses (n = 688) to the stigma tool demonstrated acceptable inter-item reliability across all scales and subsequent subscales of the instrument, with alpha values ranging from 0.70 to 0.87. The EFA demonstrated clustering around three domains: negative affect, treatment carryover, and disclosure carryover. Regression models demonstrated convergence with several covariates and demonstrated divergence as expected.

Conclusion: This study supports the reliability and validity of a short stigma questionnaire in this population. Future studies should continue to assess the validity of this stigma instrument in this population.

Keywords: Depression stigma; Malawi; Mental health stigma.

MeSH terms

  • Depression* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Malawi
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Social Stigma*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires