While there have been many quantitative studies on the public's attitude towards mental illnesses, it is hard to find quantitative study which focused on the contextual effect on the public's attitude. The purpose of this study was to identify factors that affect the public's beliefs and attitudes including contextual effects.
We analyzed survey on the public's beliefs and attitudes towards mental illness in Korea with multi-level analysis. We analyzed the public's beliefs and attitudes in terms of prejudice as an intermediate outcome and social distance as a final outcome. Then, we focused on the associations of factors, which were individual and regional socio-economic factors, familiarity, and knowledge based on the comparison of the intermediate and final outcomes.
Prejudice was not explained by regional variables but was only correlated with individual factors. Prejudice increased with age and decreased by high education level. However, social distance controlling for prejudice increased in females, in people with a high education level, and in regions with a high education level and a high proportion of the old. Therefore, social distance without controlling for prejudice increased in females, in the elderly, in highly educated people, and in regions with a high education and aged community.
The result of the multi-level analysis for the regional variables suggests that social distance for mental illness are not only determined by individual factors but also influenced by the surroundings so that it could be tackled sufficiently with appropriate considering of the relevant regional context with individual characteristics.