Mental health stigma persists despite coordinated and widely-evaluated interventions. Socioeconomic, structural, and regional context may be important in shaping attitudes to mental illness, and response to stigma interventions. Regional differences in attitudes towards mental illness could be relevant for intervention, but have not been systematically explored. We evaluated regional variation in mental health stigma using nationally representative data from England, the Health Survey for England (HSE), from 2014.
A previously derived scale for mental health-related attitudes with 2 factors (i. tolerance and support, ii. prejudice and exclusion), and overall attitudes, were outcomes. Weighted linear regressions estimated contribution of individual characteristics and region of residence to inter-individual variability in mental health-related attitudes.
London and southern regions tended to have more negative mental health-related attitudes. These differences were not fully or consistently explained by individual sociodemographic characteristics, or personal familiarity with mental illness.
Stigma policies could require refinements based on geographic setting. Regions may be in particular need of stigma interventions, or be more resistant to them. Regional differences might be related to media coverage of mental illness, funding differences, service availability, or accessibility of educational opportunities. Greater geographic detail is necessary to examine reasons for regional variation in stigmatizing attitudes towards people with mental illness, for example through multilevel analysis.