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Asia Pac Psychiatry. 2017 Sep 12. doi: 10.1111/appy.12294. [Epub ahead of print]

Attitudes towards mental illness among medical students in China: Impact of medical education on stigma.

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The Institute of Mental Health, Second Xiangya Hospital of Central South University, Changsha, China.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.
Guangzhou Brain Hospital (Guangzhou Hui Ai Hospital), Guangzhou, China.
Department of Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.



Stigma towards people with mental illness impedes effective treatment. A recent study found that Chinese students were less socially accepting of people with mental illness than counterparts from other countries. The current study examined stigma among Chinese medical students at different levels of training.


Medical students (N = 1372 from 12 Chinese schools) were surveyed with a questionnaire addressing attitudes and beliefs about people with mental illness. Analysis of variance was used to compare responses from students: (1) with no psychiatry training; (2) who had only taken a didactic course; and (3) who had completed both a course and a clinical rotation. Specific attitudes were identified through factor analysis. Interest in further training and other personal experience were also examined.


Factor analysis revealed attitudes favoring: (1) social acceptance of people with mental illness, (2) not believing in supernatural causes of mental illness, (3) bio-psycho-social causation, (4) rehabilitation, and (5) social integration. The absence of consistent trends across training levels suggested that education did not increase nonstigmatized attitudes. Areas of most stigmatization were low social acceptance and little favor for social integration. Measures most strongly correlated with nonstigmatized attitudes were as follows: interest in clinical psychiatry, belief that psychiatry should be more valued, and having friends with mental illness.


Although medical school education showed little effect on attitudes, students with more individual experiences such as planning to continue clinical psychiatric training, believing psychiatry should be more valued, and having friends with mental illness had less stigmatized attitudes than others.


China; attitude of health personnel; medical education; medical students; stigmatization

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