Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 40, Issue 9, pp 764–767 | Cite as

Public beliefs about causes and risk factors for mental disorders

Changes in Australia over 8 years
  • Anthony F. Jorm
  • Helen Christensen
  • Kathleen M. Griffiths
Original Paper

Abstract

Background

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.

Method

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.

Results

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.

Conclusion

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 words

mental health literacy causes risk factors depression schizophrenia attitude 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony F. Jorm
    • 1
  • Helen Christensen
    • 1
  • Kathleen M. Griffiths
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Mental Health ResearchAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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