Attitudes towards anorexia nervosa: Volitional stigma differences in a sample of pre-clinical medicine and psychology students

Amy Jean Bannatyne*, Peta Berenice Stapleton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
55 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a highly stigmatised condition, with treatment often involving multidisciplinary care. As such, understanding and comparing the attitudes of emerging mental health and medical professionals towards AN, within the content of sex-based differences, is pertinent to facilitate the development of targeted stigma interventions. 

Aims: Examine the volitional stigmatisation of AN in emerging medical and mental health professionals. 

Method: Participants (N = 126) were medical (n = 41) and psychology students (n = 85) who completed a range of attitudinal outcome measures (e.g. Causal Attributions Scale, Eating Disorder Stigma Scale, Opinions Scale, Characteristics Scale and Affective Reaction Scale). 

Results: Across both disciplines, men were found to exhibit significantly higher eating disorder (ED) stigma, considered AN to be a more trivial and weak illness, and attributed greater levels of blame and responsibility to AN sufferers. Men also had significantly lower biogenetic causal attributions. Compared with psychology students, medicine students exhibited slightly greater anticipation of negative reactions in response to AN, obtained higher selfish/vain scores and considered sociocultural factors to contribute “a lot” in the development and maintenance of AN. 

Conclusions: Overall, results indicate interventions aimed at improving ED mental health literacy are needed, specifically targeting males and potentially medical students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)442-448
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Mental Health
Issue number5
Early online date29 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2017


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