Biogenetic explanations and public acceptance of people with eating disorders
- 898 Downloads
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.
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.
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.
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.
KeywordsEating disorders Causal attributions Attitudes Population study
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.
- 1.National Alliance for Mental Illness. Major Depression Fact Sheet. NAMI 2009 (http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=epression&Template=/ContentManagment/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=67729)
- 7.Weiner B (1995) Judgements of responsibility. A foundation for a theory of social conduct. The Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- 9.Corrigan PW, Watson AC (2002) Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness. World Psychiatry 1:6–20Google Scholar
- 16.Bogardus ES (1925) Measuring social distances. J Appl Sociol 9:299–308Google Scholar
- 17.Arbuckle JL (2009) Amos Version (Version 18.0.0). SPSS, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
- 18.Browne MW, Cudeck R (1993) Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In: Bollen KA, Long JS (eds) Testing structural equation models. Sage Publications, Newbury Park, pp 136–162Google Scholar
- 24.Easter MM (2012) “Not all my fault”: genetics, stigma, and personal responsibility for women with eating disorders. Soc Sci Med 75:1408–1416Google Scholar