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Open Access Research article

Descriptive epidemiology of stigma against depression in a general population sample in Alberta

Trevor M Cook1 and JianLi Wang12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Canada

2 Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Canada

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BMC Psychiatry 2010, 10:29  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-10-29

Published: 19 April 2010

Abstract

Background

Mental health illnesses, such as depression, are responsible for a growing disease burden worldwide. Unfortunately, effective treatment is often impeded by stigmatizing attitudes of other individuals, which have been found to lead to a number of negative consequences including reduced help-seeking behavior and increased social distance. Despite the high prevalence of depression in Canada, little research has been conducted to examine stigma against depression in the Canadian general population. Such information is crucial to understanding the current state of stigmatizing attitudes in the Canadian communities, and framing future stigma reduction initiatives. The objectives of this study were to estimate the percentages of various stigmatizing attitudes toward depression in a general population sample and to compare the percentages by demographics and socioeconomic characteristics.

Methods

We conducted a cross-sectional telephone survey in Alberta, Canada, between February and June 2006. Random digit dialing was used to recruit participants who were aged 18-74 years old (n = 3047). Participants were presented a case vignette describing a depressed individual, and responded to a 9-item Personal Stigma questionnaire. The percentages of stigmatizing attitudes were estimated and compared by demographic and socioeconomic variables.

Results

Among the participants, 45.9% endorsed that depressed individuals were unpredictable and 21.9% held the view that people with depression were dangerous. Significant differences in stigmatizing attitudes were found by gender, age, education, and immigration status. A greater proportion of men than women held stigmatizing views on each stigma item. No consistent trend emerged by age in stigma against depression. Participants with higher levels of education reported less stigmatizing attitudes than those with less education. Participants who were not born in Canada were more likely to hold stigmatizing attitudes than those who were born in Canada.

Conclusion

In the general population, stigmatizing attitudes towards depression differ by demographic characteristics. Men, those with less education and immigrants should be the targets of stigma reduction campaigns.