Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

His And Hers: Role Of Gender In The Stigma Of Mental Illness Examined

Date:
March 3, 2009
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
A new study in Psychological Science suggests that gender biases contribute to the harmful stigma of mental illness. In these experiments, after reading a case history of a person with mental illness, volunteers showed more sympathy toward subjects suffering from an atypical disorder. In addition, the volunteers were more likely to view these illnesses as genuine biological disorders, rather than character defects or matters of personal irresponsibility.

The mentally ill don't get a fair shake in this country. Many employers don't want to hire them, and health insurers don't want to treat their illnesses. Even within their own communities and families, the mentally ill are often treated with contempt and outright anger.

Related Articles


There have been many efforts to combat the stigma of mental illness, but with limited success at best. That's in part because the stereotypes are so powerful: Mental patients are either violently dangerous or docile and incompetent. We fear the first and disdain the latter.

These are not equal opportunity stereotypes, however. The image of dangerous mental illness, including violent alcoholism, is much more often directed at men. Similarly, women are much more likely to be caricatured as pathologically dependent and depressed. Psychologists James Wirth of Purdue and Galen Bodenhausen of Northwestern wanted to know if these gender biases contribute to the harmful stigma of mental illness. Specifically, they suspected that when the mentally ill act "out of character," violating the stereotype, they might arouse more of our sympathy and leniency; if it's more uncommon, it's probably more authentic. By contrast, we might be more apt to blame and stigmatize the mentally ill when they conform to stereotype.

The psychologists decided to explore this provocative idea with a national survey. They had a group of volunteers from around the country, varying widely in age, education, and socioeconomic status, read a case history of a person with mental illness. Some read about Brian, who was a stereotypical alcoholic, while others read about Karen, who showed all the classical symptoms of major depression. Still others read switched-around versions of these cases, so that Karen was the one abusing alcohol and Brian was depressed. The idea was to see if the typicality of Brian and Karen's symptoms (or lack of it) shaped the volunteers' reactions and judgments.

And it did, without question. As reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the volunteers expressed more anger and disgust - and less sympathy - toward Brian the alcoholic than toward Karen the alcoholic, and vice versa for depression. They were also more willing to help Brian and Karen when they suffered from an atypical disorder.

Most striking of all, the volunteers were much more likely to view Brian's depression (and Karen's alcoholism) as genuine biological disorders - rather than character defects or matters of personal irresponsibility. What this suggests is that stigma-busting campaigns need to closely consider the potentially powerful role of intersecting stereotypes in shaping when and how mental illness stigma is expressed.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Wirth et al. The Role of Gender in Mental-Illness Stigma: A National Experiment. Psychological Science, 2009; 20 (2): 169 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02282.x

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "His And Hers: Role Of Gender In The Stigma Of Mental Illness Examined." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090303171455.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2009, March 3). His And Hers: Role Of Gender In The Stigma Of Mental Illness Examined. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090303171455.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "His And Hers: Role Of Gender In The Stigma Of Mental Illness Examined." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090303171455.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Daily Serving Of Yogurt Could Reduce Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Daily Serving Of Yogurt Could Reduce Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Need another reason to eat yogurt every day? Researchers now say it could reduce a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Madagascar Working to Contain Plague Outbreak

Madagascar Working to Contain Plague Outbreak

AFP (Nov. 24, 2014) — Madagascar said Monday it is trying to contain an outbreak of plague -- similar to the Black Death that swept Medieval Europe -- that has killed 40 people and is spreading to the capital Antananarivo. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins