The 6 most stigmatized skin diseases


Researchers from Boston conducted a photograph-based survey – published in Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (Sept. 2015; 73(3):525-526) – with the aim of identifying the opinions and attitudes of the general public to psoriasis and several other common skin conditions.

The survey asked the participants a range of questions about social reactions to the photographed conditions that ranged from whether they would feel shame if they had the condition or feel uncomfortable being in a public place with someone with the condition, all the way up to refusing to be waited on by restaurant staff with the condition or divorcing a spouse who developed it.

Here are the six conditions the survey found had the greatest stigma in the surveyed population.

  1. Herpes labialis. 39.3% of participants said they would find herpes labialis the ‘most bothersome’ of the conditions. It was also the condition that the largest percentage of participants said would make them feel personal shame. The majority of survey takers also said that they would be uncomfortable being seen in public with a person with herpes, wouldn’t invite them to social events, wouldn’t share food or drink with them, and would ask for a different waiter if he or she had herpes.

  2. Psoriasis. Nearly as many said they found psoriasis the most bothersome as said herpes – 30.4%. Psoriasis scored highly in most categories, but interestingly it was not the top in any of them.

  3. Acne. While 67.9% of responders said they would feel personal shame for having acne, and the same percentage said they would find someone with acne unattractive, its scores in the other categories were only average.

  4. Warts. Just over 10% of responders identified warts as the ‘most bothersome’ of the skin conditions. Warts only topped two categories, with 80.4% of participants saying they would be uncomfortable touching a person with warts, and 12.5% - tied with herpes labialis – saying they would divorce their partner over it.

  5. Atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis scored low in all categories, but did not score lowest in any of them. A little more than 5% said they thought it was the ‘most bothersome’.

  6. Rosacea. The only category where rosacea was even in the top three was the question of whether they would find a person with the condition physically unattractive - 53..5%, compared to 57.1% who said herpese labialis, , and 67.9% who said acne.

Of the other two conditions considered in the survey, vitiligo and tinea versicolour, none of the participants said they thought the conditions were the ‘most bothersome’.

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