Evolution of public beliefs about schizophrenia and attitudes towards those afflicted in Austria over two decades
Sprache des Titels:
Purpose: In the recent years, it was possible to observe two trends: First, there has been a trend to greater mental health literacy, in particular towards a biological model of schizophrenia. Secondly, an increase in public acceptance of professional help and psychiatric treatment has been observed in western countries. This indicates that the societal idea about mental illness and how it can be treated has changed. However, no changes or even changes to the worse occurred regarding the attitudes towards those suffering from the illness, particularly concerning schizophrenia. Thus, the question arises as to whether similar trends can also be found in Austria. Methods: We use data from two representative population surveys in Austria, conducted 1998 (n = 1042) and 2018 (n = 1010) using face-to-face interviews, the same sampling procedure, interview mode, and interview schedule. Results: The data show that today Austrians tend to opt less frequently for genetic factors and chronic stress as causes of schizophrenia than 20 years ago. There were only slight changes regarding intended first help-seeking actions except for a stronger endorsement of lay help. The believe in an effective treatment of schizophrenia has increased significantly and there was a marked trend towards preference of medication over psychotherapy. Social acceptance of people with schizophrenia has increased, but also the ascription of violence. Conclusion: In summary, the evolution of attitudes and beliefs concerning schizophrenia in Austria shows a rather inconsistent pattern and differs to some extent from what has been observed in other western countries. This is important to know when planning awareness-raising or stigma-reducing initiatives.