A Brief Survey of Public Knowledge and Stigma Towards Depression

Shoji Yokoya, Takami Maeno, Naoto Sakamoto, Ryohei Goto, Tetsuhiro Maeno


Background: The burden from depression is affected by the publics beliefs, stigma, and resulting behavior. Lack of knowledge, misunderstanding, and stigma about depressed people and their surroundings are barriers to improving their mental health. This study aimed to examine public beliefs regarding depression, especially how to recognize depression, treatment, and stigma.

Methods: A self-administered questionnaire was distributed to participants receiving an annual health checkup. We asked whether they agreed with four short sentences: it is not necessary to worry about depression in a person behaving brightly (misunderstanding about the behavior of depressed people), rest is important for treating depression (belief about the necessity of rest), medicine is effective for treating depression (belief about the effectiveness of pharmacotherapy) and a weak personality causes depression (stigma about the cause of depression). We also analyzed the association between these beliefs and factors such as health literacy, regularly visiting an outpatient clinic, history of depression, and demographic variables.

Results: Among 1,085 respondents (75.0% response rate), 54.5%, 75.6%, 58.9%, and 70.8% responded appropriately to the misunderstanding about the behavior of depressed people, necessity of rest, effectiveness of pharmacotherapy, and stigma about the cause of depression items, respectively. Regarding stigma about the cause of depression, 30.7% of respondents agreed that a weak personality caused depression. Female sex and younger age group were associated with appropriate answers. Health literacy was only associated with appropriate beliefs about the effectiveness of pharmacotherapy.

Conclusions: Thirty percent of participants had the stigmatizing belief that a weak personality causes depression and only 58.9% believed in the effectiveness of pharmacotherapy for depression. Over 70% understood the necessity of rest and knew that depression is possible in those who act brighter. General health literacy alone might not improve knowledge and beliefs about depression. An educational intervention or campaign to reduce stigma toward depression and improve knowledge about the treatment of depression is needed.

J Clin Med Res. 2018;10(3):202-209
doi: https://doi.org/10.14740/jocmr3282w


Depression; Mental health; Help-seeking behavior; Medication adherence; Health knowledge; Social stigma; Health literacy; Cross-sectional studies; Surveys and questionnaires

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