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Causal beliefs and attitudes to people with schizophrenia: Trend analysis based on data from two population surveys in Germany

  • Matthias C. Angermeyer (a1) and Herbert Matschinger (a1)
Abstract
Background

It is a widely shared belief that an increase in mental health literacy will result in an improvement of attitudes towards people with mental illness.

Aims

To examine how the German public's causal attributions of schizophrenia and their desire for social distance from people with schizophrenia developed over the 1990s.

Method

A trend analysis was carried out using data from two representative population surveys conducted in the Länder constituting the former Federal Republic of Germany in 1990 and 2001.

Results

Parallel to an increase in the public's tendency to endorse biological causes, an increase in the desire for social distance from people with schizophrenia was found.

Conclusions

The assumption underlying current anti-stigma programmes that there is a positive relationship between endorsing biological causes and the acceptance of people with mental illness appears to be problematic.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Professor Dr M.C. Angermeyer, University of Leipzig, Department of Psychiatry, Johannisallee 20, D-04317 Leipzig, Germany. Tel: +49 341 9724530; fax: +49 341 9724539; e-mail: krausem@medizin.uni-leipzig.de
Footnotes
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Declaration of interest

None. Funding detailed in Acknowledgement.

Footnotes
References
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American Psychiatric Association (1987) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3rd edn, revised) (DSM–III–R). Washington DC: APA.
Angermeyer, M. C. & Matschinger, H. (1996) The effect of violent attacks by schizophrenic persons on the attitude of the public towards the mentally ill. Social Science and Medicine, 43, 17211728.
Angermeyer, M. C. & Schulze, B. (2001) Reinforcing stereotypes: the focus on forensic cases in news reporting and its influence on public attitudes towards the mentally ill. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 24, 469486.
Angermeyer, M.C., Matschinger, H. & Riedel-Heller, S. G. (1999) Whom to ask for help in case of mental disorder? Preferences of the lay public. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 34, 202210.
Bogardus, E. S. (1925) Measuring social distances. Journal of Applied Sociology, 9, 299308.
Dietrich, S., Matschinger, H. & Angermeyer, M.C. (2005) The relationship between biogenetic causal explanations and social distance toward people with mental disorders. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, in press.
Gabler, S. & Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik, J. H. P. (1997) Stichproben in der Umfragenpraxis. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.
Jorm, A. F. (2000) Mental health literacy: public knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders. British Journal of Psychiatry, 177, 396401.
Link, B. G., Cullen, F. T., Frank, J., et al (1987) The social rejection of former mental patients: understanding why labels matter. American Journal of Sociology, 92, 14611500.
Lopez-Ibor, J. J. (2002) The WPA and the fight against stigma because of mental illness. World Psychiatry, 1, 3031.
Phelan, J.C., Link, B. G., Stueve, A., et al (2000) Public conception of mental illness in 1950 and 1996: what is mental illness and is it to be feared? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 41, 188207.
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Causal beliefs and attitudes to people with schizophrenia: Trend analysis based on data from two population surveys in Germany

  • Matthias C. Angermeyer (a1) and Herbert Matschinger (a1)
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