IMIM - Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques

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30/11/2009 - General information

Unemployment, low level of education and living as a couple worsen the perception of social discrimination among individuals with mental disorders

The study has just been published in the Journal of Affective Disorders

For the first time, researchers from the Municipal Institute of Medical Research (IMIM-Hospital del Mar) have studied, within the international study setting of ESEMeD, how individuals with mental disorders perceive social rejection and how this affects their well-being and the progress of their illness. Individuals with a mental disorder who feel stigmatised have a lower quality of life and more social and work-related limitations than those with a mental disorder who do not feel stigmatised.

This is the first time that an international study has simultaneously related the impact of social rejection and discrimination perceived by those who suffer from a serious mental disorder. Some mental disorders are the result of the affected person’s alienation from the rest of the community, often because the general public feels sorrier for those with mental disorders than for those with a physical disability and treats them accordingly.

The results have revealed that of the 815 participants with a clinical history of mental disorder in the last year and with a degree of disabling mental disorder, 14.8% have stated that they feel stigmatised by others around them. This perception is worsened even further when the patient is unemployed, has a low cultural level or lives with another person. The researchers have also noted a direct association between the degree of perceived rejection and low quality of life, as well as significant concomitant social and work-related limitations.

To achieve these results, the researchers surveyed 815 individuals with some type of mental disorder and with disability from six European countries (Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Holland and Italy). The survey focused on two fundamental issues: discrimination and shame. The data has been obtained based on an assessment of the physical and social limitations of the subjects studied.

The authors conclude that these results must be taken into account when dealing with mental disorder in order to avoid situations that foster social stigma, since they adversely affect the ill person’s quality of life. The authors also point out that public health organisations should prioritise making society aware of this reality and reducing educational and work-related prejudices, in addition to increasing research in this field.

Reference article: "Perceived stigma among individuals with common mental disorders" Journal of Affective Disorders 118 (2009) 180-185

About the ESEMeD project

The European Study of the Epidemiology of Mental Disorders (ESEMeD) is the first large-scale European-wide study that gathers information on the prevalence, risk factors, disability and use of health services associated with disorders related to mood, anxiety and alcohol abuse. The project’s results have been obtained with a population sample comprised of 21,425 non-institutionalized adults who represent a total population of over 212 million individuals from Germany, Belgium, Spain, Holland and Italy. The ESEMeD results provide an epidemiological base from which mental health policies in Europe can be reformed.

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