Research/studies Worker Health and Wellness

Decreases in stigma surrounding depression extend to the workplace: study

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Bloomington, IN — Stigma toward people with depression may be lessening in the workplace and other settings, results of a recent study by researchers from Indiana University and Pennsylvania State University suggest.

Using data from the U.S. National Stigma Studies, the researchers analyzed public stigma over a 22-year period at three key points: in 1996, 2006 and 2018. The studies observed perception of mental illness and included survey responses from more than 4,100 U.S. adults.

Findings show that in 2018, 29% of respondents indicated they preferred not to work closely with someone with depression. That’s in contrast to 46% who felt that way in 1996. Additionally, 15% of the respondents in 2018 said they wouldn’t want to have as a neighbor or socialize with someone with depression, down from 23% and 35%, respectively, in 1996.

“To date, this survey study found the first evidence of significant decreases in public stigma toward depression,” the researchers write.

Although stigma toward disorders such as schizophrenia and alcohol dependence increased during the study period, the researchers are encouraged by the decrease related to depression.


“Stigma is broad and pervasive and, up till now, has been notoriously stubborn to change efforts,” Bernice Pescosolido, study co-author and professor of sociology at IU, said in a press release. “Stigma translates into so many issues, including people’s reluctance to seek care, our shortage of mental health professionals and the U.S.’ unwillingness to invest resources into the mental health sector. The good news from this study is stigma can change, and the change we document crosses all sectors of society and individuals.”

Added co-author Brea Perry, also part of the IU sociology faculty: “Taken as a whole, our findings support rethinking stigma and retooling stigma reduction strategies to improve public attitudes surrounding mental illness. There is a lot of work left to be done.”

The study was published online in JAMA Network Open.

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