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Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2013 Oct;48(10):1667-73. doi: 10.1007/s00127-012-0648-9. Epub 2013 Jan 8.

Biogenetic explanations and public acceptance of people with eating disorders.

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  • 1Center for Public Mental Health, Untere Zeile 13, 3482, Gösing am Wagram, Austria,



It has been assumed that biogenetic causal models may improve public attitudes toward people with mental illnesses. The present study examines whether biogenetic attributions are positively associated with acceptance of people suffering from these disorders.


Population surveys were conducted in two large German cities. Respondents were presented with a vignette depicting a young female suffering from either anorexia nervosa (N = 680) or bulimia nervosa (N = 667), followed by a fully structured interview including questions on causal attributions, emotional reactions and desire for social distance.


Attribution to hereditary factors showed hardly any relationship with attitudes toward people with symptoms of eating disorders. Respondents who endorsed brain disease as a cause tended more to hold those afflicted responsible for their condition, they also expressed more negative emotions and a stronger preference for social distance.


Our results do not support the notion that promulgating biogenetic causal models of eating disorders helps decrease the stigma surrounding these illnesses; it may even entail the risk of increasing it.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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