Open Access Open Badges Research article

Stigma in response to mental disorders: a comparison of Australia and Japan

Kathleen M Griffiths1*, Yoshibumi Nakane2, Helen Christensen1, Kumiko Yoshioka2, Anthony F Jorm3 and Hideyuki Nakane4

Author Affiliations

1 Centre for Mental Health Research, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, 0200, Australia

2 Department of Social Work, The Faculty of Human Sociology, Nagasaki International University, 2825-7 Huis Ten Bosch-cho, Sasebo-shi, Nagasaki, 859-3298, Japan

3 ORYGEN Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Locked Bag 10, Parkville, Victoria, 3052, Australia

4 Division of Neuropsychiatry, Department of Translational Medical Sciences, Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, 1-7-1 Sakamoto, Nagasaki, 852-8501, Japan

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BMC Psychiatry 2006, 6:21  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-6-21

Published: 23 May 2006



There are few national or cross-cultural studies of the stigma associated with mental disorders. Australia and Japan have different systems of psychiatric health care, and distinct differences in cultural values, but enjoy similar standards of living. This study seeks to compare the nature and extent of stigma among the public in the two countries.


A household survey of the public was conducted in each country using similar methodologies. The Australian study comprised a national survey of 3998 adults aged over 18 years. The Japanese survey involved 2000 adults aged 20 to 69 from 25 regional sites distributed across the country. Interviewees reported their personal attitudes (personal stigma, social distance) and perceptions of the attitudes of others (perceived stigma, perceived discrimination) in the community with respect to four case vignettes. These vignettes described a person with: depression; depression with suicidal ideation; early schizophrenia; and chronic schizophrenia.


Personal stigma and social distance were typically greater among the Japanese than the Australian public whereas the reverse was true with respect to the perception of the attitudes and discriminatory behaviour of others. In both countries, personal stigma was significantly greater than perceived stigma. The public in both countries showed evidence of greater social distance, greater personal stigma and greater perceived stigma for schizophrenia (particularly in its chronic form) than for depression. There was little evidence of a difference in stigma for depression with and without suicide for either country. However, social distance was greater for chronic compared to early schizophrenia for the Australian public.


Stigmatising attitudes were common in both countries, but negative attitudes were greater among the Japanese than the Australian public. The results suggest that there is a need to implement national public awareness interventions tailored to the needs of each country. The current results provide a baseline for future tracking of national stigma levels in each country.