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.
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.
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.
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.
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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