American Attitudes Toward and Willingness to Use Psychiatric Medications

Published in: The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, v. 191, no. 3, Mar. 2003, p. 166-174

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2002

by Thomas Croghan, Molly Tomlin, Bernice A. Pescosolido, Jason Schnittker, Jack K. Martin, Keri Lubell, Ralph Swindle

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Despite recent advances in treatment, many Americans decline to take prescribed psychiatric medication. This study explores the role of attitudes regarding the effectiveness of and potential problems associated with psychiatric medications on Americans' willingness to use them. Face-to-face interviews of a US household population sample were done with 1387 volunteers. The 1998 General Social Survey's (response rate, 76.4%) included questions about efficacy, problems, and potential use. Most Americans agree that psychiatric medications are effective, and fewer than half had concerns regarding potential problems. However, the majority of respondents would not be willing to take them. Willingness to use is influenced by these attitudes and other factors, including health status and past use of mental health treatments. Although Americans perceive psychiatric medications to be effective, and this influences their willingness to take them, many still are not willing to take them.

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