Socioeconomic status and beliefs about depression, schizophrenia and eating disorders

  • Olaf von dem Knesebeck
  • Eva Mnich
  • Anne Daubmann
  • Karl Wegscheider
  • Matthias C. Angermeyer
  • Martin Lambert
  • Anne Karow
  • Martin Härter
  • Christopher Kofahl
Original Paper



The association between socioeconomic status (SES) and knowledge/belief about depression, schizophrenia and eating disorders will be analysed.


Data stem from a telephone survey in two large German cities (Hamburg and Munich, n = 2,014, response rate 51 %). Written vignettes with typical signs and symptoms suggestive of a depression, schizophrenia and eating disorders were presented to the respondents. Respondents were then asked about knowledge/belief about causes, symptoms, prevalence and treatment using a standardised questionnaire. Education, occupational position and income were used as SES indicators.


Results of mixed hierarchal logistic regression analyses show that individuals with a low SES know less about symptoms and prevalences of depression, schizophrenia and eating disorders. Moreover, people with a high SES are more likely to consider medication as effective in case of depression and schizophrenia, but are less likely to believe that activities such as sports or relaxation are an effective measure to treat the three mental disorders under study. Respondents with a high SES are less likely to believe that a weak will is a possible cause of depression, schizophrenia and eating disorders. We found large similarities in the associations between SES and beliefs across the three mental disorders. Finally, associations of beliefs about mental disorders with education are stronger and more consistent than with income and occupational position.


Results indicate an inequality in mental health literacy and underline that information campaigns on causes, symptoms, prevalence and treatment of mental disorders should consider information needs of people with a low SES.


Mental health literacy Socioeconomic status Depression Schizophrenia Eating disorder 



The study is supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (01KQ1002B) in the frame of “psychenet-Hamburg network mental health” (2011–2014). Psychenet is part of the national programme in which the City of Hamburg was given the title “Health Region of the Future” in 2010. The aim of the project is to promote mental health today and in the future, and to achieve an early diagnosis and effective treatment of mental illnesses. Further information and a list of all project partners can be found at We would like to thank all respondents for taking part in the study and USUMA (Berlin) for conducting the telephone survey.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olaf von dem Knesebeck
    • 1
  • Eva Mnich
    • 1
  • Anne Daubmann
    • 2
  • Karl Wegscheider
    • 2
  • Matthias C. Angermeyer
    • 3
  • Martin Lambert
    • 4
  • Anne Karow
    • 4
  • Martin Härter
    • 5
  • Christopher Kofahl
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Medical Sociology and Health EconomicsUniversity Medical Center Hamburg EppendorfHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Medical Biometry and EpidemiologyUniversity Medical Center Hamburg EppendorfHamburgGermany
  3. 3.Centre for Public Mental HealthGösing am WagramAustria
  4. 4.Psychosis Centre, Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity Medical Center Hamburg EppendorfHamburgGermany
  5. 5.Department of Medical PsychologyUniversity Medical Center Hamburg EppendorfHamburgGermany

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