Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 336-341

First online:

Lay beliefs regarding causes of mental illness in Nigeria: pattern and correlates

  • Abiodun O. AdewuyaAffiliated withDept. of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, Lagos State University, PMB 21266 Email author 
  • , Roger O. A. MakanjuolaAffiliated withDept. of Mental Health, College of Health Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University

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Although studies have shown that views about causation are strongly associated with stigmatising attitudes to mental illness, none have examined the correlates of such causal views in order to identify the population needed to be targeted for education.


To evaluate the pattern and correlates of lay beliefs regarding the causes of mental illness in south-western Nigeria.


A cross-sectional survey in which respondents (n = 2,078) were administered questionnaire detailing sociodemographic variables and perceived causation of mental illness.


Beliefs in supernatural factors and the misuse of psychoactive substances were the most prevalent. While urban dwelling, higher educational status and familiarity with mental illness correlated with belief in biological and psychosicial causation, older age, rural dwelling, and lack of familiarity correlated with a belief in supernatural causation. Educational status had no effect on the belief in supernatural causation.


Anti-stigma programmes need to incorporate these factors in order to identify the population at risk, who will actually benefit from targeted education regarding the causes of mental illness.

Key words

stigma developing countries cross culture causation community