, Volume 44, Issue 8, pp 651-657
Date: 18 Dec 2008

Mental health literacy of autism spectrum disorders in the Japanese general population

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Abstract

Objective

We aimed to clarify the public’s mental health literacy of autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Methods

Using a vignette of a young child, 500 Japanese participants were asked their perspectives, such as causes and appropriate coping strategies. For each response from those respondents who correctly identified the child as having autism, we tested the effects of sex and generation.

Results

Two hundred twenty-nine respondents (45.8%) correctly identified the child as having autism. Significantly (P < 0.05) more females planned practical coping strategies such as contacting public agencies, whereas males had relatively more irrelevant perceptions, for example, significantly more males attributed ASD to social environment. Significantly more young respondents expected psychiatric treatments such as antipsychotic administration to be effective, and more seniors estimated low that the prevalence is approximately 0.01% or less.

Conclusions

The mental health literacy of ASD among the Japanese public appears to be acceptable but there is still much room for improvement. Females showed more accurate knowledge, possibly reflecting gender roles. Some young people are not likely to know of the impact of psychiatric treatment, and seniors appear to be unaware of the current broadened recognition of ASD. Continued efforts to disseminate accurate information are required, particularly among males.