Rural US residents recognize anxiety better than urbanites and suburbanites but hold similar stigma

Scott Loveridge, Mark Skidmore, Robert Shupp, Paula K. Miller, Courtney Cuthbertson, Stephan Goetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Recognizing signs of psychological distress is a critical first step in assisting people who are struggling with poor mental health to access help. However, community-level factors that impact recognition and stigma are underexplored. The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between rurality, other community-level variables, and individual variables with regard to the recognition and stigma of anxiety. Methods: We use a survey of US adults (N = 627), including a rural oversample, and a cloaked vignette approach. We assess the ability to identify anxiety and measure associated stigma. The analysis applies an ecological model in multinomial logistic regressions. Findings: About half of the respondents recognize anxiety from a list of possibilities when provided with a vignette detailing common anxiety symptoms. Respondents living in rural areas are nearly twice as likely to correctly identify anxiety than nonrural respondents. About one-fifth of respondents agree with a statement designed to measure stigma: that exhibiting the symptoms is a sign of personal weakness. Respondents able to identify anxiety show less stigma. Respondents from counties with high mental health provider access were less likely to endorse the stigma statement. Conclusions: Rural areas seem poised to reduce the stigma associated with anxiety, because residents are more adept at identifying anxiety than people living elsewhere. Future work could focus on effective mechanisms for reducing stigma associated with anxiety in rural areas, and whether anxiety recognition and stigma are changing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)860-869
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Rural Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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