Recent advances in cross-cultural measurement in psychiatric epidemiology: Utilizing 'what matters most' to identify culture-specific aspects of stigma

Lawrence Hsin Yang, Graham Thornicroft, Ruben Alvarado, Eduardo Vega, Bruce George Link

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: While stigma measurement across cultures has assumed growing importance in psychiatric epidemiology, it is unknown to what extent concepts arising from culture have been incorporated. We utilize a formulation of culture-as the everyday interactions that 'matter most' to individuals within a cultural group-to identify culturally-specific stigma dynamics relevant to measurement.Methods: A systematic literature review from January 1990 to September 2012 was conducted using PsycINFO, Medline and Google Scholar to identify articles studying: (i) mental health stigma-related concepts; (ii) ≥1 non-Western European cultural group. From 5292 abstracts, 196 empirical articles were located. Results: The vast majority of studies (77%) utilized adaptations of existing Western-developed stigma measures to new cultural groups. Extremely few studies (2.0%) featured quantitative stigma measures derived within a non-Western European cultural group. A sizeable amount (16.8%) of studies employed qualitative methods to identify culture-specific stigma processes. The 'what matters most' perspective identified cultural ideals of the everyday activities that comprise 'personhood' of 'preserving lineage' among specific Asian groups, 'fighting hard to overcome problems and taking advantage of immigration opportunities' among specific Latino-American groups, and 'establishing trust among religious institutions due to institutional discrimination' among African-American groups. These essential cultural interactions shaped culture-specific stigma manifestations. Mixed method studies (3.6%) corroborated these qualitative results. Conclusion: Quantitatively-derived, culturally-specific stigma measures were lacking. Further, the vast majority of qualitative studies on stigma were conducted without using stigma-specific frameworks. We propose the 'what matters most' approach to address this key issue in future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberdyu039
Pages (from-to)494-510
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014



  • Culture
  • Literature review
  • Measurement
  • Psychometric
  • Scales
  • Stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology

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