Examining the Link Between Socioeconomic Status and Mental Illness Prejudice: The Roles of Knowledge About Mental Illness and Empathy

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Abstract

Unlike people suffering from most physical afflictions, those with mental illness often face prejudice. This study examines the interplay of several key social and personal predictors of mental illness prejudice: SES, empathy, mental illness knowledge, and personal acquaintance with the mentally ill. As expected, analyses showed that higher subjective (although not objective) SES, lower levels of empathy, and lower levels of knowledge about mental illness all predicted increased prejudice against people suffering from clinical depression and nondescript mental illness—although not against people suffering from schizophrenia. Path analyses showed evidence for a mediating role of knowledge and empathy in the link between SES and prejudice. Implications of these findings for ways to diffuse mental illness prejudice are discussed.

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