Biogenetic explanations and public acceptance of mental illness: Systematic review of population studies

Centre for Public Mental Health, Gösing am Wagram, Austria.
The British journal of psychiatry: the journal of mental science (Impact Factor: 7.34). 11/2011; 199(5):367-72. DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.110.085563
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Biological or genetic models of mental illness are commonly expected to increase tolerance towards people with mental illness, by reducing notions of responsibility and blame.
To investigate whether biogenetic causal attributions of mental illness among the general public are associated with more tolerant attitudes, whether such attributions are related to lower perceptions of guilt and responsibility, to what extent notions of responsibility are associated with rejection of people who are mentally ill, and how prevalent notions of responsibility are among the general public with regard to different mental disorders.
A systematic review was conducted of representative population studies examining attitudes towards people with mental illness and beliefs about such disorders.
We identified 33 studies relevant to this review. Generally, biogenetic causal attributions were not associated with more tolerant attitudes; they were related to stronger rejection in most studies examining schizophrenia. No published study reported on associations of biogenetic causal attributions and perceived responsibility. The stereotype of self-responsibility was unrelated to rejection in most studies. Public images of mental disorder are generally dominated by the stereotypes of unpredictability and dangerousness, whereas responsibility is less relevant.
Biogenetic causal models are an inappropriate means of reducing rejection of people with mental illness.

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Available from: Mauro Giovanni Carta, Aug 14, 2015
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    • "Most studies, however, analyse the two types of beliefs separately (Angermeyer et al., 2011, 2013; Kvaale et al., 2013; Pilkington et al., 2013; Read et al., 2013a,b; Walker and Read, 2002). An advantage of this approach is illustrated by a study that adopted both approaches (Read and Harre, 2001). "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Public beliefs about the causes of mental health problems are related to desire for distance and pessimism about recovery, and are therefore frequently studied. The beliefs of people receiving treatment are researched less often. Method An online survey on causal beliefs about depression and experiences with antidepressants was completed by 1829 New Zealand adults prescribed anti-depressants in the preceding five years, 97.4% of whom proceeded to take antidepressants. Results The most frequently endorsed of 17 causal beliefs were family stress, relationship problems, loss of loved one, financial problems, isolation, and abuse or neglect in childhood. Factor analysis produced three factors: ‘bio-genetic’, ‘adulthood stress’ and ‘childhood adversity’. The most strongly endorsed explanations for increases in antidepressant prescribing invoked improved identification, reduced stigma and drug company marketing. The least strongly endorsed was ‘Anti-depressants are the best treatment’. Regression analyses revealed that self-reported efficacy of the antidepressants was positively associated with bio-genetic causal beliefs, negatively associated with childhood adversity beliefs and unrelated to adulthood stress beliefs. The belief that ‘People cannot׳ get better by themselves even if they try’ was positively associated with bio-genetic beliefs. Limitations The convenience sample may have been biased towards a favourable view of bio-genetic explanations, since 83% reported that the medication reduced their depression. Conclusions Clinicians׳ should consider exploring patients׳ causal beliefs. The public, even when taking antidepressants, continues to hold a multi-factorial causal model of depression with a primary emphasis on psycho-social causes. A three factor model of those beliefs may lead to more sophisticated understandings of relationships with stigma variables.
    Journal of Affective Disorders 10/2014; 168:236–242. DOI:10.1016/j.jad.2014.06.010 · 3.71 Impact Factor
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    • "The relationship between biogenetic causal beliefs and negative attitudes towards mentally ill people has been a long lasting discussion in the literature (e.g. Angermeyer and Matschinger 2005; Cook and Wang 2011; Hill and Bale 1981; Jorm and Griffiths 2008; Lincoln et al. 2008; Mehta and Farina 1997; "
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    ABSTRACT: A Many-Facet Rasch analysis was carried out with the intent of identifying a latent trait dimension characterized by mental disorders causal beliefs variables. The present research consists of two studies. In Study 1, the responses of 443 Italian university students to a 40-item scale were analyzed by means of Rasch models. In Study 2, the responses of two new groups of subjects, of 300 and 135 people respectively, were examined to further validate the mental disorders causal beliefs dimension obtained in Study 1. Specific bias/interactions between the MDCB dimension and other variables, such as gender and university faculties, were detected. Correlation analyses between the MDCB dimension and attribution theory and social desirability variables were also carried out. The results showed that a 30-item Mental Disorder Causal Beliefs (MDCB) latent dimension exists, characterized by contents representative of biological-genetic and psycho-social causes. Males and females did not differ on their causal beliefs, whereas Psychology students presented more psycho-social etiology beliefs. The MDCB dimension was correlated neither to a general locus of control scale nor to the social desirability measure, whereas it was significantly correlated to the psychotherapeutic attribution measure. The results evidenced a well devised measure which can be potentially useful in the research and clinical practice for the assessment of people's etiology beliefs about mental illness, focusing on the development of personalized interventions to reduce or modify eventual negative attitudes and misconceptions.
    Community Mental Health Journal 12/2013; 49:686-693. DOI:10.1007/s10597-012-9581-3 · 1.03 Impact Factor
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    • "In this study, we examined natural kind and entitative beliefs about two specific mental disorders (schizophrenia and alcoholism ), which have been associated with different biogenetic attributions and outcomes (Angermeyer et al., 2011), and one somatic disorder (Parkinson's disease), and how they differentially relate to prejudice toward individuals with the disorder . Four primary hypotheses were tested. "
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    ABSTRACT: Mental health campaigns often promote biogenetic beliefs to reduce stigma, but their effectiveness may vary across disorders. Our study (N = 127) examined two components of essentialist beliefs—entitative (i.e., characterizing groupness) and natural kinds (i.e., biogenetic)—about two stigmatized mental disorders (schizophrenia, alcoholism) as well as a somatic disorder (Parkinson's disease), and their relation to prejudice. The three disorders significantly differed in natural kind beliefs (Parkinson's highest, then schizophrenia, and alcoholism lowest) and prejudice (alcoholism highest, then schizophrenia, and Parkinson's lowest), but not entitative beliefs. Entitative beliefs, however, was a stronger predictor of prejudice against schizophrenia than natural kind beliefs even after controlling for social dominance orientation and prior contact. Implications for anti-stigma efforts and strategies are discussed.
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