Patient characteristics negatively stereotyped by doctors

Soc Sci Med. 1982;16(20):1781-9. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(82)90272-6.


A variety of studies demonstrate the existence of prejudice in the manner and content of health care delivery. Alcoholics, attempted suicides, drug addicts, prostitutes, the mentally retarded or mentally ill, the aged and women have been found to receive less adequate health care. Previous studies have identified manifestations of prejudice in health care delivery but have generally failed to determine the prevalence of negative stereotypes in a sample comprising a cross section of medical practitioners. This study reviews the negative patient stereotypes reported by 2421 Victorian (Australia) and Michigan (U.S.A.) doctors. The characteristics of patients so stereotyped are found to be remarkably consistent. The most commonly held negative stereotypes (patients who abuse alcohol, unhygienic patients, abusive patients, substance abusers and those with minor mental disorders) appear to be determined by the social values which prevail in our society. Many negative stereotypes appear to reflect a response to patients who deviate from the sick role. Other stereotypes may involve reactions to patients or to the types of problems which raise important therapeutic dilemmas.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Australia
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Michigan
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Prejudice*
  • Sampling Studies
  • Stereotyping*