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Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2011 Sep;57(5):480-6. doi: 10.1177/0020764010374415. Epub 2010 Jun 30.

Gender differences in the knowledge, attitude and practice towards mental health illness in a rapidly developing Arab society.

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Department of Medical Statistics & Epidemiology, Hamad General Hospital, Hamad Medical Corporation,Weill Cornell Medical College, Qatar.



Mental disorders are common in all countries and cause immense suffering. Both gender and low socioeconomic status have been related to depression and other common mental disorders, but their possible relationship to mental health literacy remains uncertain.


The aim of this study was to determine the gender differences in knowledge, attitudes and practices towards mental illness in a sample of Qatari and other Arab expatriates residing in the State of Qatar.


This is a cross-sectional survey.


Primary healthcare centres in the State of Qatar.


A multi-stage sampling design was used and a representative sample of 3,300 Qatari and other Arab expatriates above 20 years of age were surveyed during the period from October 2008 to June 2009. Of the study sample of 3,300, 2,514 subjects (76.2%) expressed their consent to participate.


A questionnaire was designed to assess the gender difference in knowledge, attitudes and practice towards mental illness.This questionnaire was administered to the Arab adult population above 20 years of age who were attending primary healthcare centres for various reasons other than mental illness. Face-to-face interviews were based on this questionnaire, which included variables on socio-demographic characteristics, knowledge, attitude and practice towards mental illness.


Of the study sample, 49.2% were men and 50.8% were women. Overall, the studied women held more to the cultural beliefs related to some aspects of mental illness. For example, more women than men believed that mental illness is due to possession by evil spirits. Also, nearly half of the women thought traditional healers can treat mental illness; this belief was significantly lower in men. Some of the women considered people with mental illness as dangerous; a belief also significantly lower in men. Men had a better attitude towards mental illness than women. Men were more willing to visit a psychiatrist for their emotional problems, while women preferred a traditional healer. Women were more afraid than men to talk to the mentally ill. Knowledge of common mental illnesses was generally poor, and it seemed to be lower among women. Men obtained more information than women from the media; women favoured healthcare staff more than men did.


The study reveals that men had better knowledge, beliefs and attitudes towards mental illness than women. Most of the women were afraid and not willing to keep friendships with the mentally ill. The results of this study underline the importance of information in changing people's attitude towards mental illness. Recognition of common mental disorders was very poor in men and women.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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