Public beliefs about causes and risk factors for mental disorders
- First Online:
Surveys of the public in several countries have found a predominant belief in social environmental causes of mental disorders. The present study was conducted to determine whether this has changed over time in Australia.
Beliefs about causes and risk factors were assessed using questions based around case vignettes of a person with depression or schizophrenia. These questions were asked in a national survey of 2,031 Australians aged 18–74 carried out in 1995, and a second survey of 1,823 persons carried out in 2003–2004.
The major changes were an increase in belief in genetic causes of both depression and schizophrenia, increases in beliefs about problems from childhood and the death of someone close as causes of depression, and a decrease in the belief that “weakness of character” is a cause of schizophrenia.
There has been an increase in belief about genetic causes, which may be due to publicity about the human genome project and related scientific advances. This change has not been at the expense of belief in social causes, and it has been accompanied by a decrease in the belief that personal weakness is a cause.
Key wordsmental health literacy causes risk factors depression schizophrenia attitude
- 6.Jorm AF, Christensen H, Griffiths KM (in press) The public's ability to recognize mental disorders and their beliefs about treatment: changes in Australia over 8 years. Aust N Z J PsychiatryGoogle Scholar
- 10.Magliano L, Fiorillo A, De Rossa C, Malangone C, Maj M (2004) Beliefs about schizophrenia in Italy: a comparative nationwide survey of the general public, mental health professionals, and patients' relatives. Can J Psychiatry 49:171–179Google Scholar
- 12.McKeon P, Carrick S (1991) Public attitudes to depression: a national survey. Ir J Psychol Med 8:116–121Google Scholar