Heredity and Depression: The Effects of Genetic / Attribution on the Public’s View of Individuals with Depression

Document Type


Publication Date

April 2010

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Eric Landrum


Evidence suggests that some people are genetically predisposed to depression. This belief has become increasingly common among the public in recent years. Some studies indicate that people who believe in genetic attribution feel fear towards depressed people. Studies also show that individuals who believe in genetic attribution for depression may be unwilling to interact with depressed people. If this is the case, information about genetic attribution may contribute to stigma towards depression sufferers. Many other studies are contradictory and suggest that genetic attribution does not affect the level of fear felt towards depressed people or willingness to interact with them. A survey was administered to volunteers at Boise State University in order to access their opinion on genetic attribution, their willingness to interact with depressed people, and their perceived risk of harm from depressed people. Over one- third of participants reported a belief that heredity is a factor in the development of depression. Participants who believed that heredity was a factor in depression believed that depressed people were more likely to be violent than other people. Despite this, they were no less likely to want to interact with depressed individuals. The results support previous studies that suggest that genetic attribution may increase stigma towards depressed individuals, although the study does not indicate that people avoid interacting with depression sufferers.

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