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Predictors of experiences of discrimination and positive treatment in people with mental health problems: findings from an Australian national survey

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The aim of the study was to assess the factors predicting experiences of avoidance, discrimination and positive treatment in people with mental health problems.


In 2014, telephone interviews were carried out with 5220 Australians aged 18+, 1381 of whom reported a mental health problem or scored highly on a symptom screening questionnaire. Questions covered experiences of avoidance, discrimination and positive treatment by friends, spouse, other family, workplace, educational institution and others in the community; as well as disclosure of mental health problems. Avoidance, discrimination and positive treatment scores were calculated by counting the number of domains in which each occurred. Predictors of avoidance, discrimination and positive treatment were modelled with negative binomial regression analyses.


After adjusting for the effects of other predictors in multivariate analyses, symptom severity and a diagnosis of ‘any other disorder’ (most commonly psychotic disorders or eating disorders) predicted experiences of both avoidance and discrimination but not positive treatment. Disclosing a mental health problem in more settings was also associated with higher rates of avoidance and discrimination, but also with positive treatment.


Disclosure of mental health problems to others may increases experiences of discrimination, but may also increase experiences of positive treatment. These findings can help to inform decision making by people with mental health problems about disclosure, particularly in the case of more severe or low-prevalence disorders.

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Correspondence to Nicola J. Reavley.

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The study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

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On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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Reavley, N.J., Morgan, A.J. & Jorm, A.F. Predictors of experiences of discrimination and positive treatment in people with mental health problems: findings from an Australian national survey. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 52, 269–277 (2017).

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