Depression, discrimination, stigma: new cross-sectional survey in The Lancet


A new cross-sectional survey published in The Lancet has revealed some unsurprising but nonetheless sobering facts about how people with depression are stigmatised.

The research team, funded by money from the European Commission, interviewed 1,082 people with depression from 35 countries across the world. They used the discrimination and stigma scale (version 12; DISC-12) to measure discrimination and anticipated discrimination. They conducted a multivariable regression to analyse the data.

Here’s what they found:

  • 79% of people with depression report having experienced some form of discrimination
  • 34% of participants reported that they had been avoided or shunned by other people because of their mental health problems
  • 71% said that they actively wished to conceal their depression from other people
  • 37% of participants had been prevented from starting a close personal relationship because of anticipated discrimination
  • 25% had not applied for work at some point because of anticipated discrimination
  • However, the research found that actual events did not always confirm what people had expected from their anticipated discrimination:
    • 47% of participants who had anticipated discrimination in finding or keeping a job did not actually experience discrimination
    • 45% who anticipated discrimination in their personal relationships said that they did not actually experience discrimination

Professor Graham Thornicroft who led the research team said:

Our findings show that discrimination related to depression is widespread, and almost certainly acts as a barrier to an active social life and having a fair chance to get and keep a job for people with depression.

A great deal of the research in this area to date has focused on the attitudes of the general public to mental health and the stigma that these frequently cause. This new study is a welcome addition to our knowledge in the field and yet another reason to improve public education about depression and discrimination.


Lasalvia, A. et al. Global pattern of experienced and anticipated discrimination reported by people with major depressive disorder: a cross-sectional survey. The Lancet 2012, Oct 18, doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61379-8

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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