More than three-quarters of people with depression reported discrimination as a result of their illness, according to new study results. Respondents also reported having difficulty initiating close personal relationships and hesitated applying for work at some point because they expected to face discrimination.
“Previous work in this area has tended to focus on public attitudes toward stigma based on questions about hypothetical situations, but ours is the first study to investigate the actual experiences of discrimination in a large global sample of people with depression,” study researcher Graham Thornicroft, PhD, said in a press release.
Thornicroft, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, and colleagues surveyed 1,082 patients being treated for depression in 39 sites across 35 countries. Discrimination and anticipation of discrimination were assessed using the discrimination and stigma scale, version 12.
The researchers found that 79% of participants reported experiencing discrimination. Depression had prevented 37% of participants from initiating a close personal relationship, 25% from applying for work and 20% from applying for education or training. Participants who experienced discrimination were less willing to disclose a diagnosis of depression (P<.001). However, Thornicroft and colleagues also found that participants who had anticipated discrimination did not necessarily experience it. Forty-seven percent of participants who had anticipated discrimination in searching for or keeping a job and 45% of those who had anticipated discrimination in their personal relationships did not actually experience any in those situations.
In a linked statement, Anthony Jorm, PhD, of the University of Melbourne in Australia, noted the importance of the study results, but said, “Further research could provide much needed input into the design of anti-discrimination interventions — such as public education about human rights and the effect of discrimination on the person with depression; action from health services to help overcome anticipated discrimination as a barrier to help seeking; and the incorporation into treatments such as cognitive [behavioral] therapy of techniques to address anticipated discrimination and symptoms.”
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.