The Impact of Linguistic Form of Labels on Desire for Social Distance in Mental Health

Matt Geoffrey Mallinson, Anastasia Giannakopoulou, Andrew James Clements

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The American Psychological Association, among other influential bodies, make recommendations on language for describing people with mental health conditions. The present studies test the impact of the recommended language on stigma. In Study 1, participants (n = 294) were asked to complete measures of desire for social distance from individuals given a diagnostic label in either person-first possessive, identity-first noun, or identity-first adjective forms. Familiarity with the diagnoses was considered as a potential influence on the outcome. The 3*2 (linguistic form * experience) factorial design was repeated for three diagnoses - schizophrenia, anorexia and alcoholism. In Study 2, the research was replicated with a sample recruited from the UK population via social media (n = 230). Factorial ANOVA was used for analysis. In contrast with previous literature, the studies found neither an effect of linguistic form (hypothesis 1) nor an interaction effect with familiarity (hypothesis 2). Research on this topic is in an early stage and, above all, it remains important to use language, which shows respect when talking to or about others.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health and Addiction
Early online date2 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit


  • Person first language
  • identity first language
  • mental health
  • essentialism
  • labelling
  • stigma


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