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Keywords:

  • depression;
  • antidepressant drugs;
  • drug promotion;
  • attitudes;
  • mass media;
  • third-person effect

Abstract

Background: This study examines the evidence for a third- person effect (TPE) in the reactions of individuals affected by depression to direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertisements for antidepressants. TPE predicts that people will perceive the self to be less vulnerable to such advertisements than others. Previous research has identified such an effect, but did so in general population surveys. Past Previous research has also found a link between depression and diminished self-serving biases; whether this would be the case for TPE is unknown. Methods: An online questionnaire was administered to 148 participants in an Internet depression support group to investigate their perceptions of the influence of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertisements for antidepressants. Results: Consistent with expectations derived from third-person effect TPE research, participants, although relatively neutral in their attitudes toward such advertisements, nevertheless perceived other individuals with depression as more influenced than themselves. Positive attitudes towards DTC advertisements and depressive symptoms at the time of the survey were each negatively associated with this third-person perception (TPE). Conclusions: Individuals who have been diagnosed with depression and who participated in an online depression support group believe that they are less vulnerable to the influence of DTC advertisements than the typical person with a history of depression. This is moderated by attitudes towards DTC advertisements as well as by depressive symptoms, each of which is associated with a weakened TPE. Depression and Anxiety, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.