Influence of gender on mental health literacy in young Australians

Sue M Cotton, Annemarie Wright, Meredith G Harris, Anthony F Jorm, Patrick D McGorry
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 2006, 40 (9): 790-6

OBJECTIVES: To determine the effects of gender on mental health literacy in young people between 12 and 25 years of age.

DESIGN: Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing was employed to conduct a cross-sectional structured interview focusing on young people's awareness of depression and psychosis.

PARTICIPANTS: The sample comprised 1207 young Australians (539 males and 668 females) between the ages of 12-25 recruited from two metropolitan and two regional areas within Victoria. Six hundred and six respondents were presented a depression vignette and 601 were presented a psychosis vignette.

RESULTS: Female respondents (60.7%) were significantly more likely to correctly identify depression in the vignette as compared to male respondents (34.5%). No significant gender differences were noted for the psychosis vignette. Males were less significantly likely to endorse seeing a doctor or psychologist/counsellor for the treatment of psychosis. Males were also significantly more likely than females to endorse alcohol as a way of dealing with depression and antibiotics as useful for dealing with psychosis.

CONCLUSION: Gender differences in mental health literacy are striking. Males showed significantly lower recognition of symptoms associated with mental illness and were more likely endorse the use alcohol to deal with mental health problems. Such factors may contribute to the delays in help seeking seen in young males. Further research is needed to delineate how these gender differences in young people may obstruct help seeking, early intervention and other aspects of mental health service delivery.

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