Social norms are generally accepted, informal rules which guide behaviour (1). These can differ between cultures and are shaped by public rhetoric, values, and societal expectations.
Risk and/or Protective Factor
Norms and values can be beneficial for mental health if they promote protective factors. For example, values around family connectedness have been associated with better mental health (2).
On the other hand, they can be harmful if they promote risk factors. For example, norms surrounding masculinity have been associated with poorer mental health, as masculinity can discourage help-seeking (3). Negative beliefs around mental health, including whether mental health difficulties are dangerous, can contribute to stigma and discrimination (4). Industries can contribute to risk factors, by promoting harmful norms and behaviours to gain profit, such as normalising gambling (5).
1. Aarts H, Dijksterhuis A. The silence of the library: Environment, situational norm, and social behavior. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003;84(1):18–28.
2. Corona R, Rodríguez VM, McDonald SE, Velazquez E, Rodríguez A, Fuentes VE. Associations between Cultural Stressors, Cultural Values, and Latina/o College Students’ Mental Health. J Youth Adolesc. 2017 Jan 1;46(1):63–77.
3. Wong YJ, Ho MHR, Wang SY, Miller ISK. Meta-analyses of the relationship between conformity to masculine norms and mental health-related outcomes. J Couns Psychol [Internet]. 2017 Jan 1 [cited 2021 Jan 25];64(1):80–93. Available from: /record/2016-56584-001?doi=1
4. Norman RMG, Sorrentino RM, Windell D, Manchanda R. The role of perceived norms in the stigmatization of mental illness. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol [Internet]. 2008 [cited 2021 Jan 22];43(11):851–9. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18575793/
5. Russell AMT, Langham E, Hing N. Social influences normalize gambling-related harm among higher risk gamblers. J Behav Addict [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2021 Mar 1];7(4):1100–11. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30596469/