India faces a significant gap between the prevalence of mental illness among the population and the availability and effectiveness of mental health care in providing adequate treatment. This discrepancy results in structural stigma toward mental illness which in turn is one of the main reasons for a persistence of the treatment gap, whereas societal factors such as religion, education, and family structures play critical roles. This survey-based study investigates perceived stigma toward mental illness in five metropolitan cities in India and explores the roles of relevant sociodemographic factors.
Samples were collected in five metropolitan cities in India including Chennai ( n = 166), Kolkata ( n = 158), Hyderabad ( n = 139), Lucknow ( n = 183), and Mumbai ( n = 278). Stratified quota sampling was used to match the general population concerning age, gender, and religion. Further, sociodemographic variables such as educational attainment and strength of religious beliefs were included in the statistical analysis.
Participants displayed overall high levels of perceived stigma. Multiple linear regression analysis found a significant effect of gender ( P < 0.01), with female participants showing higher levels of perceived stigma compared to male counterparts.
Gender differences in cultural and societal roles and expectations could account for higher levels of perceived stigma among female participants. A higher level of perceived stigma among female participants is attributed to cultural norms and female roles within a family or broader social system. This study underlines that while India as a country in transition, societal and gender rules still impact perceived stigma and discrimination of people with mental illness.