Date: 22 January 2019
New research from the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre suggests that people living in London and the south of England have more negative attitudes towards mental health problems than those in other areas of the country.
The study used nationally representative data from more than 4,000 people who completed the Health Survey for England in 2014. The section of the survey on attitudes to mental health asked respondents to indicate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements such as ‘people with mental illness don’t deserve our sympathy’.
Respondents from London had the most negative attitudes towards people with mental illness, while those from the North East were at the most positive end of the spectrum. The researchers took other differences between the regions into account, including age and socioeconomic status.
The results, published in PLoS ONE, also showed that negative attitudes towards people with mental illness were more common among men, among people with fewer educational qualifications, and among the youngest age groups. People in cities were more likely to have negative attitudes to mental illness than those in rural areas.
Understanding these patterns could help to plan mental health interventions, and make it easier to target and tailor anti-stigma campaigns so they are as effective as possible. The ultimate aim of research like this is to help reduce stigma towards mental health, so that outcomes for people affected by mental illness can be improved.
Dr Claire Henderson, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry at King’s College London and one of the researchers who carried out the study, said:
“Our work provides early evidence that there may be influences causing mental health stigma to be greater in some areas of the country. Because regions are big and variable within themselves, the next steps are to explore whether there are differences among smaller areas, and what the reasons are for these differences. This might identify new ways to tackle stigma.”
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