Gender effect on attitudes towards the mentally ill: a survey of Turkish university students

Bayram Mert Savrun, Kemal Arikan, Omer Uysal, Gunay Cetin, Burc Cagri Poyraz, Cana Aksoy, Mahmut Reha Bayar
Israel Journal of Psychiatry and related Sciences 2007, 44 (1): 57-61

UNLABELLED: This study investigates gender-associated characteristics of attitudes towards the mentally ill in a large sample of Turkish university students. Factors associated with gender variation were also analyzed.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Student's t-test and linear regression analyses of the results of a vignette-based opinion survey conducted on a sample of final-year Turkish university students (n=700) were performed. The survey consisted of the following: the "Dangerousness Scale:' "Characteristics Scale," "Skill Assessment Scale:" "Social Distance Scale:" "Affective Reaction Scale" and a socio-demographic questionnaire.

RESULTS: The results showed a statistically significant difference between female and male respondents with regard to their answers to the questions on the "Dangerousness Scale," "Characteristics Scale" and the "Skill Assessment Scale" In all of these three scales, female respondents showed a less stigmatizing attitude than the male respondents. This gender effect continued after controlling for the subjects' age and family income. In female respondents, parents' level of education and a more positive attitude about treatment of mental illness predicted less stigmatizing attitudes towards mental illness.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that gender difference in this sample has an impact on the stigmatization phenomenon in an independent fashion. A more positive view of female university students towards the mentally ill might be due to their comparatively optimistic attitudes about the treatability of mental illnesses. The observed gender difference seems to be accentuated by the fact that female students' parents' level of education was higher than that of their male counterparts.

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