Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 535–551 | Cite as

Medical Student Attitudes Towards People with Mental Illness in China: A Qualitative Study

  • Audrey Luo
  • Hongbo He
  • Somaia Mohamed
  • Robert RosenheckEmail author
Original Paper


Stigma towards people with mental illness is a worldwide concern. A five-nation survey of medical student attitudes towards people with mental illness recently reported far lower levels of social acceptance among Chinese medical students compared to those from the US, Brazil, Ghana, and Nigeria. This qualitative study presented recent Chinese medical school graduates with probes based on questions used in the aforementioned cross-national study to elicit their views of factors underlying the negative attitudes towards social acceptance of people with mental illness. One-hour interviews were conducted with twenty psychiatry residents in June, 2016. Of 241 coded responses concerning negative attitudes, 51.5% were coded as reflecting fear of violent behavior, 22.8% as loss of face (i.e. shame from interpersonal associations), 17.0% lowered social status, 4.98% nonconforming social behavior, and 3.73% the heritability of mental illness. Low levels of social acceptance of individuals with mental illness among medical students in China are largely related to fears of violence of and loss of face. Understanding the attitudes of medical students may inform efforts to reduce stigma through educational initiatives targeted at both medical students and the general public.


Stigma Culture Violence Mental Health in China Cultural psychiatry 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

This study was approved by the Human Investigations Committee of Yale Medical School.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Audrey Luo
    • 1
  • Hongbo He
    • 2
  • Somaia Mohamed
    • 3
  • Robert Rosenheck
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Yale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.The Affiliated Brain Hospital of Guangzhou Medical UniversityGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.Yale Medical SchoolNew HavenUSA
  4. 4.VA New England MIRECCYale Medical SchoolNew HavenUSA
  5. 5.VA Connecticut Health Care SystemWest HavenUSA

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