Public knowledge, attitudes, social distance and reporting contact with people with mental illness 2009–2017 [2018]

Our aim was to investigate patterns of change in public knowledge, attitudes, desire for social distance and reporting having contact with people with mental health problems in England during the Time to Change (TTC) programme to reduce stigma and discrimination 2009–2017.

Using data from an annual face-to-face survey of a nationally representative quota sample of adults, we evaluated longitudinal trends of the outcome measures with regression analyses and made assumptions on the basis of a simple random sample. We tested interactions between year and demographic subgroups.

There were improvements in all outcomes in 2017 compared with baseline measures (2008 or 2009). Reported in s.d. units [95% confidence interval (CI)], the improvement for knowledge was 0.17 (0.10–0.23); for attitudes 0.25 (0.18–0.31); and for social distance 0.29 (0.23–0.35). A higher likelihood of reporting contact was also associated with most recent survey year (odds ratio 1.47, 95% CI 1.27–1.71). Statistically significant interactions between year and region of England suggest greatest improvements in attitudes and intended behaviour in London, where both outcomes were significantly worse in the early years of the survey. However, for attitudes, this interaction was only significant among women. Other significant interactions suggest that attitudes improved most in the target age group (25–44).

The results provide support for the effectiveness of TTC across demographic groups. However, other societal changes may influence the results, such as the increasing prevalence of common mental disorder in young women.

Emily J. Robinson and Claire Henderson
Psychological Medicine, 20 December 2018