Social distance and perceived dangerousness across four diagnostic categories of mental disorder

Dannette Marie, Brad Miles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To examine whether laypersons make categorical distinctions between psychoses, neuroses, and addictive behaviours relative to desired social distance and whether degree of familiarity and perceived dangerousness influences social distance judgements.
Method: Two studies were undertaken using the mental health literacy framework. The first study involved surveying lay beliefs and perceptions of a mentally ill person who exhibited behavioural cues of one of the following: schizophrenia, depression, alcohol abuse, or substance dependence. The second study involved a partial replication and refinement of the first study to determine whether discriminate judgements across diagnostic categories were influenced by perceived dangerousness.
Results: Findings from study 1 indicated that laypersons do differentiate between psychological disorders and respond to them differently relative to social distance. Results from study 2 confirmed those of study 1 and in addition suggested that perceived dangerousness influences social distance, largely with respect to schizophrenia.
Conclusions: Laypersons make categorical distinctions between different types of disorders. Perceived dangerousness is more strongly associated with schizophrenia, than is warranted when considered against acts of violence and aggression committed by individuals with alcohol abuse and substance dependence problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-133
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008


  • dangerousness
  • mental disorder
  • mental health literacy
  • social distance
  • illness
  • ill
  • stigmatization
  • beliefs
  • stigma
  • people


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