Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 39, Issue 7, pp 543–552

Lay theories of schizophrenia

A cross-cultural comparison of British and Hong Kong Chinese attitudes, attributions and beliefs



This study set out to compare British and Chinese young people’s beliefs about the manifestations, causes and cures of schizophrenia.


A total of 339 participants completed a 60-item questionnaire to compare lay theories of schizophrenia between British (in England) and Chinese (in Hong Kong) participants. The participants completed the three-part questionnaire in their mother tongue looking at beliefs about schizophrenia in general, causal explanation for the aetiology of schizophrenia and optimal cures for the condition. It was hypothesized that the Chinese would possess more negative attitudes and beliefs about schizophrenia than the British. It was also predicted that the Chinese would tend to use primarily a sociological model to explain the aetiology of schizophrenia.


These two hypotheses were confirmed after factor-analysing the internal structure of the three sections of the questionnaire. However, the Chinese, compared to the British, did not use more superstitious beliefs to explain the behaviour of people with schizophrenia.


Concern with mental health literacy has led to more studies on lay theories about major mental illnesses (specifically schizophrenia) because these theories reflect societal attitudes to patients and behaviour toward them. This study suggests that even well-educated young people remain ignorant about one of the most challenging mental illnesses. Implications for help-seeking behaviour and the course of the illness in individuals are considered.

Key words

lay theories schizophrenia crosscultural China Britain 


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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dept. of PsychologyUniversity College LondonLondon WC1H 0APUK

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