THURSDAY, Oct. 18, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Among people with depression, 79 percent report that they've experienced some form of discrimination, a new study finds.
British researchers used questionnaires to gather information about discrimination encountered by nearly 1,100 people treated for depression in 35 countries.
The responses showed that 34 percent of the patients said they had been avoided or shunned by other people because of their mental health problems, 37 percent said that anticipated discrimination had stopped them from initiating a close personal relationship, and 25 percent said they had not applied for work at some point because they expected they would face discrimination.
However, many patients who anticipated discrimination did not experience it, including 47 percent of those who believed they would face discrimination in finding or keeping a job, and 45 percent of those who were worried about discrimination in personal relationships, according to the study published online Oct. 18 in The Lancet.
The study also found that 71 percent of patients said they wanted to conceal their depression from other people. The researchers were concerned about this finding because it means that people with depression may not seek treatment because of their fears of discrimination.
"Previous work in this area has tended to focus on public attitudes towards stigma based on questions about hypothetical situations, but ours is the first study to investigate the actual experiences of discrimination in a large, global sample of people with depression," study leader Graham Thornicroft, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, said in a journal news release.
"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," Thornicroft said.
These are important findings, Anthony Jorm, of the University of Melbourne in Australia, said in an accompanying commentary. Further research is needed to determine the best ways to prevent discrimination against people with depression and to help them deal with discrimination and anticipated discrimination, he added.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about depression.