Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 44, Issue 8, pp 651–657 | Cite as

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

  • Tomonori KoyamaEmail author
  • Hisateru Tachimori
  • Kanae Sawamura
  • Asuka Koyama
  • Yoichi Naganuma
  • Hazuki Makino
  • Tadashi Takeshima



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


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.


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.


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.


autism spectrum disorders (ASD) mental health literacy public vignette 



This study was supported by a Research Grant from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan (H16-KOKORO-013). We thank Drs. Yoshiharu Kim, Hiroshi Kurita, Naoki Nago, Iwao Oshima, and Motoe Yamamura for their help with developing the survey sheet.


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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag Darmstadt 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tomonori Koyama
    • 1
    Email author
  • Hisateru Tachimori
    • 2
  • Kanae Sawamura
    • 3
  • Asuka Koyama
    • 2
  • Yoichi Naganuma
    • 2
  • Hazuki Makino
    • 4
  • Tadashi Takeshima
    • 2
  1. 1.Dept. of Child and Adolescent Mental Health, National Institute of Mental HealthNational Center of Neurology and PsychiatryTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Dept. of Mental Health Administration, National Institute of Mental HealthNational Center of Neurology and PsychiatryTokyoJapan
  3. 3.Research Dept.Institute for Health Economics and PolicyTokyoJapan
  4. 4.Division of Social Studies, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Urban Liberal ArtsTokyo Metropolitan UniversityTokyoJapan

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