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Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 48, Issue 10, pp 1667–1673 | Cite as

Biogenetic explanations and public acceptance of people with eating disorders

  • Matthias C. Angermeyer
  • Eva Mnich
  • Anne Daubmann
  • Lena Herich
  • Karl Wegscheider
  • Christopher Kofahl
  • Olaf von dem Knesebeck
Original Paper

Abstract

Purpose

It has been assumed that biogenetic causal models may improve public attitudes toward people with mental illnesses. The present study examines whether biogenetic attributions are positively associated with acceptance of people suffering from these disorders.

Methods

Population surveys were conducted in two large German cities. Respondents were presented with a vignette depicting a young female suffering from either anorexia nervosa (N = 680) or bulimia nervosa (N = 667), followed by a fully structured interview including questions on causal attributions, emotional reactions and desire for social distance.

Results

Attribution to hereditary factors showed hardly any relationship with attitudes toward people with symptoms of eating disorders. Respondents who endorsed brain disease as a cause tended more to hold those afflicted responsible for their condition, they also expressed more negative emotions and a stronger preference for social distance.

Conclusions

Our results do not support the notion that promulgating biogenetic causal models of eating disorders helps decrease the stigma surrounding these illnesses; it may even entail the risk of increasing it.

Keywords

Eating disorders Causal attributions Attitudes Population study 

Notes

Acknowledgments

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 program 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 http://www.psychenet.de. 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 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthias C. Angermeyer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Eva Mnich
    • 3
  • Anne Daubmann
    • 4
  • Lena Herich
    • 4
  • Karl Wegscheider
    • 4
  • Christopher Kofahl
    • 3
  • Olaf von dem Knesebeck
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Public Mental HealthGösing am WagramAustria
  2. 2.Department of Public HealthUniversity of CagliariCagliariItaly
  3. 3.Institute of Medical Sociology and Health EconomicsUniversity Medical Center Hamburg-EppendorfHamburgGermany
  4. 4.Department of Medical Biometry and EpidemiologyUniversity Medical Center Hamburg-EppendorfHamburgGermany

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