Less educated men are more likely to suffer from personal stigma associated with depression, according to a new study.
The finding, by researchers from the Australian National University, underline the importance of developing programs to tackle the stigma associated with depression.
For the study, the researchers examined both personal stigma, which is the negative attitude a person has towards depression, and perceived stigma, which describes the stigma felt by a person with depression.
"We already know that stigma is a leading cause of concern for people suffering from depression but up until now not a lot has been done to examine it," explained lead researcher Kathleen Griffiths.
"Our work is critical to the successful design and targeting of programs that address the public's negative attitudes to people with depression and help to reduce the stigma felt by those who are already depressed," she added.
Over six thousand Australian adults, including some with depression, answered the research surveys in an attempt to investigate and compare their own levels of perceived stigma as well as personal stigma. People who had come into contact with depression had lower levels of personal stigma.
The researchers found that people who scored highest on a test of depression knowledge were less likely to stigmatize the condition.
At a national level, older people were more likely to hold stigmatizing views and to believe that the public viewed people with depression in a poor light.
"Interestingly, although it is often assumed that people from rural areas have more negative attitudes to mental disorders, we did not find any difference between stigma in the country and city." Griffiths said.
"This is the first study to investigate predictors of personal stigma among those people with high levels of depressive symptoms. Personal stigmas were higher for males, those with less education, those born overseas and people in greater psychological distress.
"While our study showed that stigma is not as high as many members of the public think, it is still a problem. For example, as many as one-in-five Australians say that they would not work with someone with depression.
"We recommend developing targeted programs to reduce these levels of stigma. A good place to start might be with men, older people, those with lower education levels and those born overseas," she added.
The study appears in the open access journal BMC Psychiatry.