Social Distance from Individuals with Depression: Social Dominance Orientation, Depression Stigma, & Mental Illness Exposure

Open Access
Leri, John Daniel
Area of Honors:
Psychology (Altoona)
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Samantha Tornello, Thesis Supervisor
  • Laura Rotunno, Honors Advisor
  • Mike Roche, Faculty Reader
  • depression
  • social distance
  • social dominance orientation
  • mental illness exposure
  • depression stigma
  • stigma
Social distance is an individual’s willingness to associate (or not) with another person. Prior research has found that both social dominance orientation and prior exposure to mental illness are associated to social distance but depression related stigma has not yet been directly linked. In this study, 425 participants were exposed to vignettes portraying an individual who disclosed a depression diagnosis, an individual who disclosed a depression diagnosis and was currently being treated with antidepressant medication, or an individual who did not disclose any current diagnosis (control). Participants exposed to the both depression vignettes (with and without medication) desired significantly less social distance compared to the control vignette. Those who held greater stigmatizing beliefs regarding depression, greater social dominance orientation, and less personal exposure to mental illness reported wanting greater social distance to the individual diagnosed with depression, regardless of treatment status. When exploring the relationship between these variables, having greater stigmatizing beliefs and a lack of mental illness exposure were significant predictors of social distance. These results suggest that both mental illness exposure and depression related stigma, can be useful areas of interventions to reduce negative attitudes towards individuals diagnosed with depression.