05 Dec The Stigma of Acne
A number of studies have linked acne to lower self-esteem, but a recent Irish study has found that it also leads to a lower quality of life—especially for females. At Refined Dermatology, acne is one of the most common complaints. According to the researchers at the University of Limerick (UL), the social stigma around acne has made girls and women report a lower overall life quality compared to men. Researchers surveyed 271 people with acne to see how they perceived others as viewing them because of their appearance. Unsurprisingly, looks are connected to psychological distress. This can lead to sleep disturbance, gastrointestinal issues, and headaches.
Acne: Women vs. Men
Females reported a much greater impairment to their lives than males. The severity of the acne was directly tied to their mental stress, too. Lead researchers Dr. Aisling O’Donnell and Jamie Davern wanted to find out if people with acne perceived the stigma in a way that led to real health outcomes. Their primary focus was on somatic symptoms, health-related life quality, and psychological distress. According to Dr. O’Donnell, “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.”
Those in the survey who reported severe acne also self-reported higher rates of anxiety, depression, somatic issues like respiratory illness, and psychological distress. Dr. O’Donnell says, “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.”
Ph.D. student and lead author Davern noted that when fewer people in a society have a condition like acne (mostly thanks to medical-grade treatments), the perceived stigma increases. “Like many physical attributes that are stigmatized, acne is not well represented in popular culture,” says Davern. Advertising, filters on social media, and the entertainment industry suggest that acne doesn’t exist—or demonizes it—even though that isn’t true. This can make people think they aren’t normal.