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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Attitudes of undergraduate health science students towards patients with intellectual disability, substance abuse, and acute mental illness: a cross-sectional study

Malcolm J Boyle1*, Brett Williams1, Ted Brown2, Andrew Molloy2, Lisa McKenna3, Elizabeth Molloy4 and Belinda Lewis5

Author Affiliations

1 Monash University, Department of Community Emergency Health and Paramedic Practice, P.O. Box 527, Frankston 3199, Victoria, Australia

2 Monash University, Department of Occupational Therapy, P.O. Box 527, Frankston 3199, Victoria, Australia

3 Monash University, School of Nursing and Midwifery, P.O. Box 527, Frankston 3199, Victoria, Australia

4 Monash University, Centre for Medical Health Science Education, Building 2, 270 Ferntree Gully Rd, Notting Hill 3168, Victoria, Australia

5 Monash University, School of Primary Health Care, P.O. Box 527, Frankston 3199, Victoria, Australia

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BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:71  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-71

Published: 21 October 2010

Abstract

Background

There is a long history of certain medical conditions being associated with stigma, stereotypes, and negative attitudes. Research has shown that such attitudes can have a detrimental effect on patients presenting with stigmatised medical conditions and can even flow on to impact their family. The objective of this study was to measure the attitudes of undergraduate students enrolled in six different health-related courses at Monash University toward patients with intellectual disability, substance abuse, and acute mental illness.

Methods

A convenience sample of undergraduate students enrolled in six health-related courses in first, second and third years at Monash University were surveyed. The Medical Condition Regard Scale - a valid and reliable, self-report measure of attitudes - was administered to students along with a brief demographic form. Mean scores, t-tests, and ANOVA were used to analyse student attitudes. Ethics approval was granted.

Results

548 students participated. Statistically significant differences were found between the courses (p = 0.05), year of the course (p = 0.09), and gender (p = 0.04) for the medical condition of intellectual disability. There was no statistically significant difference between the courses, year of the course, gender, and age group for substance abuse or acute mental illness conditions.

Conclusion

The findings suggest that students in undergraduate health-related courses, as a group, have a strong regard for patients with intellectual disability and some regard for patients with acute mental illness, but not for patients presenting with substance abuse problems.