Managing the terror of a dangerous world: Political attitudes as predictors of mental health stigma

Joseph S. DeLuca, Philip T. Yanos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background: Previous research has associated self-reported political conservatism to mental health stigma. Although the limitations of self-reported political attitudes are well documented, no study has evaluated this relationship from a more nuanced perspective of sociopolitical identity. Aims: To assess the relationship between political attitudes and mental health stigma (i.e. negative stereotypes and intended social distance), particularly from a standpoint of Right-Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) - a more specific measure of political conservatism. Method: A sample of 505 New York State residents completed an online survey. Results: The results of this study indicated significant relationships between endorsements of self-reported conservatism and RWA to negative stereotypes and social distance in relation to mental illness. Individuals with 'High RWA' were more likely to see individuals with mental illness as dangerous and unpredictable, and less willing to want to socially associate with individuals with mental illness. These results remained statistically significant even when controlling for other factors that consistently predict mental health stigma. Negative stereotypes also partially mediated individuals with RWA's significant relationship to social distance. Conclusion: Characteristics of political conservatives and right-wing authoritarians (e.g. threat-aversion, personal responsibility) are predictive of mental health stigma. Terror Management Theory may also help to explain this phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-30
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Social Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Mental health stigma
  • conservatism
  • mental illness contact
  • negative stereotypes
  • political attitudes
  • right-wing authoritarianism
  • social distance
  • terror management


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