Mood matters: a national survey on attitudes to depression

  • John R. Kelly
  • Mary Cosgrove
  • Cian Judd
  • Kathy Scott
  • Aoibheann Mc Loughlin
  • Veronica O’KeaneEmail author
Original Article



Depression is the leading contributor to the burden of disease worldwide. Stigma and negative attitudes to depression can act as barriers to treatment and to social inclusion. Understanding attitudes to depression and treatment has implications for individual outcomes and societal mental health.


To explore public attitudes to, and management of depression, including lifestyle factors, medication, and psychotherapy.


A nationally representative online population survey of Irish adults was conducted by RED C.


Nine hundred ninety-one people completed the survey. The majority thought that depression was a medical illness (90%), was different to sadness or stress (89%), and that awareness of depression was increasing (89%), while stigma was reducing (69%). Self-reported lifetime depression rates were high and were significantly higher in younger people (18-34 yrs) (63% vs 55%, p = 0.017), and in urban areas (60% vs 44%, p < 0.0001). Younger people were less likely to contact their GP (46% vs 61%, p = 0.034) and reported more stigma around antidepressants (ADTs) compared to older people (> 55 years) (74% vs 58%, p < 0.0001). There were negative attitudes to ADTs and a preference for talking therapies and lifestyle changes. Males were more likely to hold negative attitudes to ADTs.


Stigma around depression is reducing and public awareness is improving. However, the very high self-reported lifetime rates of depression may reflect milder forms or emotional/psychological distress, rather than clinical depression. Negative attitudes and stigma towards ADTs remains high. A collaborative, sustained effort is required to advance public appreciation of mood and its management, across the severity spectrum, in tandem with destigmatising the targeted use of ADTs.


Antidepressants Awareness Depression Mood Precision-personalized psychiatry Public attitudes Stigma 



We would like to acknowledge and thank John Rogers and Ciara Clarke from RED C Research.

Financial support statement

This study emanated from a Health Research Board Knowledge Exchange and Dissemination Scheme Award granted to Professor Veronica O′ Keane.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical standards

The authors assert that all procedures contributing to this work comply with the ethical standards of the relevant national and institutional committee on human experimentation with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2008. The authors assert that ethical approval for publication of this paper was not required by their local Ethics Committee.

Supplementary material

11845_2019_2014_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 15 kb)
11845_2019_2014_MOESM2_ESM.docx (17 kb)
ESM 2 (DOCX 16 kb)


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryTrinity College DublinDublin 24Ireland
  2. 2.Trinity Centre for Health SciencesTallaght University HospitalDublin 24Ireland
  3. 3.Department of Germanic Studies, School of School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural StudiesTrinity College DublinDublinIreland
  4. 4.Trinity College Institute of NeuroscienceTrinity College DublinDublinIreland
  5. 5.The TrailblazeryDublinIreland

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