The social construction of illness has become one of the central themes in medical sociology over the last fifty years. This field of research focuses on how society and an individual’s knowledge and experience shapes the way they understand and view certain physical and mental illnesses. Prior research has found that many people hold stigmatized views towards individuals who suffer from mental illnesses and tend to feel more sympathetic and supportive towards those who have physical illnesses. These previous studies have found that gender, age, race, education and socioeconomic status are factors that influence how a person perceives physical and mental illnesses. Through a survey and data analysis, this current study found partial support that these factors influenced an individual’s perceptions towards illness. Specifically, gender, age, and socioeconomic status were found to be the most important indicators of how an individual perceived illness.
Based on these findings, there should be more education given to students and the general public about mental illnesses. Although the majority of participants admitted to knowing someone with a mental illness, many of them still held prejudicial views towards people with these illnesses. Increasing education about mental illnesses has been shown as an effective tool to reduce prejudicial views. This step should be taken to alleviate the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.