Acne stigma can lower quality of life, cause mental distress and headaches

Acne,Body shaming,Body positivity

A recent study has associated acne stigma with lower overall quality of life. Females in the University of Limerick (UL), Ireland, study reported greater impairment of life quality and more symptoms than males. A survey of 271 acne sufferers revealed that their own negative perceptions of how society views their appearance is linked to higher psychological distress levels and further physical symptoms such as sleep disturbance, headaches and gastrointestinal problems.

Acne severity was significantly correlated with health-related quality of life and psychological distress. UL researchers Dr Aisling O’Donnell and Jamie Davern conducted the study to investigate whether acne sufferers’ perceptions of stigmatisation significantly predicts psychological and physical health outcomes; specifically health-related quality of life, psychological distress, and somatic symptoms.

“We know from previous research that many acne sufferers experience negative feelings about their condition, but we have never before been able to draw such a direct link between quality of life and perception of social stigma around acne,” said Dr O’Donnell.

Survey respondents who perceived high levels of acne stigma also reported higher levels of psychological distress, anxiety and depression as well as somatic conditions such as respiratory illness. “The findings of this study echo previous research showing that individuals with visible physical distinctions, which are viewed negatively by society, can experience impaired psychological and physical well-being as a result,” Dr O’Donnell continued.

According to the article’s lead author, Jamie Davern, a lack of representation of people with acne in popular culture can increase the perceived stigma around the condition. “Like many physical attributes that are stigmatised, acne is not well-represented in popular culture, advertising or social media. This can lead people with acne to feel that they are ‘not normal’ and therefore negatively viewed by others. Online campaigns like #freethepimple and the recent ‘acne-positive’ movement emerging on social media is encouraging for people of all ages that are affected by acne,” he explained.

The study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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