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1.  Schizophrenia and Violence: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(8):e1000120.
Seena Fazel and colleagues investigate the association between schizophrenia and other psychoses and violence and violent offending, and show that the increased risk appears to be partly mediated by substance abuse comorbidity.
Although expert opinion has asserted that there is an increased risk of violence in individuals with schizophrenia and other psychoses, there is substantial heterogeneity between studies reporting risk of violence, and uncertainty over the causes of this heterogeneity. We undertook a systematic review of studies that report on associations between violence and schizophrenia and other psychoses. In addition, we conducted a systematic review of investigations that reported on risk of homicide in individuals with schizophrenia and other psychoses.
Methods and Findings
Bibliographic databases and reference lists were searched from 1970 to February 2009 for studies that reported on risks of interpersonal violence and/or violent criminality in individuals with schizophrenia and other psychoses compared with general population samples. These data were meta-analysed and odds ratios (ORs) were pooled using random-effects models. Ten demographic and clinical variables were extracted from each study to test for any observed heterogeneity in the risk estimates. We identified 20 individual studies reporting data from 18,423 individuals with schizophrenia and other psychoses. In men, ORs for the comparison of violence in those with schizophrenia and other psychoses with those without mental disorders varied from 1 to 7 with substantial heterogeneity (I2 = 86%). In women, ORs ranged from 4 to 29 with substantial heterogeneity (I2 = 85%). The effect of comorbid substance abuse was marked with the random-effects ORs of 2.1 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.7–2.7) without comorbidity, and an OR of 8.9 (95% CI 5.4–14.7) with comorbidity (p<0.001 on metaregression). Risk estimates of violence in individuals with substance abuse (but without psychosis) were similar to those in individuals with psychosis with substance abuse comorbidity, and higher than all studies with psychosis irrespective of comorbidity. Choice of outcome measure, whether the sample was diagnosed with schizophrenia or with nonschizophrenic psychoses, study location, or study period were not significantly associated with risk estimates on subgroup or metaregression analysis. Further research is necessary to establish whether longitudinal designs were associated with lower risk estimates. The risk for homicide was increased in individuals with psychosis (with and without comorbid substance abuse) compared with general population controls (random-effects OR = 19.5, 95% CI 14.7–25.8).
Schizophrenia and other psychoses are associated with violence and violent offending, particularly homicide. However, most of the excess risk appears to be mediated by substance abuse comorbidity. The risk in these patients with comorbidity is similar to that for substance abuse without psychosis. Public health strategies for violence reduction could consider focusing on the primary and secondary prevention of substance abuse.
Please see later in the article for Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Schizophrenia is a lifelong, severe psychotic condition. One in 100 people will have at least one episode of schizophrenia during their lifetime. Symptoms include delusions (for example, patients believe that someone is plotting against them) and hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that are not there). In men, schizophrenia usually starts in the late teens or early 20s; women tend to develop schizophrenia a little later. The causes of schizophrenia include genetic predisposition, obstetric complications, illegal drug use (substance abuse), and experiencing traumatic life events. The condition can be treated with a combination of antipsychotic drugs and supportive therapy; hospitalization may be necessary in very serious cases to prevent self harm. Many people with schizophrenia improve sufficiently after treatment to lead satisfying lives although some patients need lifelong support and supervision.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some people believe that schizophrenia and other psychoses are associated with violence, a perception that is often reinforced by news reports and that contributes to the stigma associated with mental illness. However, mental health advocacy groups and many mental health clinicians argue that it is a myth that people with mental health problems are violent. Several large, population-based studies have examined this disputed relationship. But, although some studies found no increased risk of violence among patients with schizophrenia compared with the general population, others found a marked increase in violent offending in patients with schizophrenia. Here, the researchers try to resolve this variation (“heterogeneity”) in the conclusions reached in different studies by doing a systematic review (a study that uses predefined search criteria to identify all the research on a specific topic) and a meta-analysis (a statistical method for combining the results of several studies) of the literature on associations between violence and schizophrenia and other psychoses. They also explored the relationship between substance abuse and violence.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
By systematically searching bibliographic databases and reference lists, the researchers identified 20 studies that compared the risk of violence in people with schizophrenia and other psychoses and the risk of violence in the general population. They then used a “random effects model” (a statistical technique that allows for heterogeneity between studies) to investigate the association between schizophrenia and violence. For men with schizophrenia or other psychoses, the pooled odds ratio (OR) from the relevant studies (which showed moderate heterogeneity) was 4.7, which was reduced to 3.8 once adjustment was made for socio-economic factors. That is, a man with schizophrenia was four to five times as likely to commit a violent act as a man in the general population. For women, the equivalent pooled OR was 8.2 but there was a much greater variation between the ORs in the individual studies than in the studies that involved men. The researchers then used “meta-regression” to investigate the heterogeneity between the studies. This analysis suggested that none of the study characteristics examined apart from co-occurring substance abuse could have caused the variation between the studies. Importantly the authors found that risk estimates of violence in people with substance abuse but no psychosis were similar to those in people with substance abuse and psychosis and higher than those in people with psychosis alone. Finally, although people with schizophrenia were nearly 20 times more likely to have committed murder than people in the general population, only one in 300 people with schizophrenia had killed someone, a similar risk to that seen in people with substance abuse.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that schizophrenia and other psychoses are associated with violence but that the association is strongest in people with substance abuse and most of the excess risk of violence associated with schizophrenia and other psychoses is mediated by substance abuse. However, the increased risk in patients with comorbidity was similar to that in substance abuse without psychosis. A potential implication of this finding is that violence reduction strategies that focus on preventing substance abuse among both the general population and among people with psychoses might be more successful than strategies that solely target people with mental illnesses. However, the quality of the individual studies included in this meta-analysis limits the strength of its conclusions and more research into the association between schizophrenia, substance abuse, and violence would assist in clarifying how and if strategies for violence reduction are changed.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information about schizophrenia (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices Web site has information for patients and carers about schizophrenia
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has a page on schizophrenia; MedlinePlus provides links to other sources of information on schizophrenia and on psychotic disorders (in English and Spanish)
The Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America provides information and support for people with schizophrenia and their families
The time to change Web site provides information about an English campaign to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness
The Schizophrenia Research Forum provides updated research news and commentaries for the scientific community
PMCID: PMC2718581  PMID: 19668362
2.  HIV, Gender, Race, Sexual Orientation, and Sex Work: A Qualitative Study of Intersectional Stigma Experienced by HIV-Positive Women in Ontario, Canada 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001124.
Mona Loutfy and colleagues used focus groups to examine experiences of stigma and coping strategies among HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada.
HIV infection rates are increasing among marginalized women in Ontario, Canada. HIV-related stigma, a principal factor contributing to the global HIV epidemic, interacts with structural inequities such as racism, sexism, and homophobia. The study objective was to explore experiences of stigma and coping strategies among HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a community-based qualitative investigation using focus groups to understand experiences of stigma and discrimination and coping methods among HIV-positive women from marginalized communities. We conducted 15 focus groups with HIV-positive women in five cities across Ontario, Canada. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis to enhance understanding of the lived experiences of diverse HIV-positive women. Focus group participants (n = 104; mean age = 38 years; 69% ethnic minority; 23% lesbian/bisexual; 22% transgender) described stigma/discrimination and coping across micro (intra/interpersonal), meso (social/community), and macro (organizational/political) realms. Participants across focus groups attributed experiences of stigma and discrimination to: HIV-related stigma, sexism and gender discrimination, racism, homophobia and transphobia, and involvement in sex work. Coping strategies included resilience (micro), social networks and support groups (meso), and challenging stigma (macro).
HIV-positive women described interdependent and mutually constitutive relationships between marginalized social identities and inequities such as HIV-related stigma, sexism, racism, and homo/transphobia. These overlapping, multilevel forms of stigma and discrimination are representative of an intersectional model of stigma and discrimination. The present findings also suggest that micro, meso, and macro level factors simultaneously present barriers to health and well being—as well as opportunities for coping—in HIV-positive women's lives. Understanding the deleterious effects of stigma and discrimination on HIV risk, mental health, and access to care among HIV-positive women can inform health care provision, stigma reduction interventions, and public health policy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
HIV-related stigma and discrimination—prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV—is a major factor contributing to the global HIV epidemic. HIV-related stigma, which devalues and stereotypes people living with HIV, increases vulnerability to HIV infection by reducing access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and support. At the personal (micro) level, HIV-related stigma can make it hard for people to take tests to determine their HIV status or to tell other people that they are HIV positive. At the social/community (meso) level, it can mean that HIV-positive people are ostracized from their communities. At the organizational/political (macro) level, it can mean that health-care workers treat HIV-positive people differently and that governments are deterred from taking fast, effective action against the HIV epidemic. In addition, HIV-related stigma is negatively associated with well-being among people living with HIV. Thus, among HIV-positive people, those who have experienced HIV-related stigma have higher levels of mental and physical illness.
Why Was This Study Done?
Racism (oppression and inequity founded on ethno-racial differences), sexism and gender discrimination (oppression and inequity based on gender bias in attitudes), and homophobia and transphobia (discrimination, fear, hostility, and violence towards nonheterosexual and transgender people, respectively) can also affect access to HIV services. However, little is known about how these different forms of stigma and discrimination interact (intersect). A better understanding of the effect of intersecting stigmas on people living with HIV could help in the development of stigma reduction interventions and HIV prevention, treatment and care programs, and could help to control global HIV infection rates. In this qualitative study (an analysis of people's attitudes and experiences rather than numerical data), the researchers investigate the intersection of HIV-related stigma, racism, sexism and gender discrimination, homophobia and transphobia among marginalized HIV-positive women in Ontario, Canada. As elsewhere in the world, HIV infection rates are increasing among women in Canada. Nearly 25% of people living with HIV in Canada are women and about a quarter of all new infections are in women. Moreover, there is a disproportionately high infection rate among marginalized women in Canada such as sex workers and lesbian, bisexual, and queer women.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers held 15 focus groups with 104 marginalized HIV-positive women who were recruited by word-of-mouth and through flyers circulated in community agencies serving women of diverse ethno-cultural origins. Each focus group explored topics that included challenges in daily life, medical issues and needs, and issues that were silenced within the participants' communities. The researchers analyzed the data from these focus groups using thematic analysis, an approach that identifies, analyzes, and reports themes in qualitative data. They found that women living with HIV in Ontario experienced multiple types of stigma at different levels. So, for example, women experienced HIV-related stigma at the micro (“If you're HIV-positive, you feel shameful”), meso (“The thing I hate most for people that test positive for HIV is that society ostracizes them”), and macro (“A lot of women are not getting employed because they have to disclose their status”) levels. The women also attributed their experiences of stigma and discrimination to sexism and gender discrimination, racism, homophobia and transphobia, and involvement in sex work at all three levels and described coping strategies at the micro (resilience; “I always live with hope”), meso (participation in social networks), and macro (challenging stigma) levels.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that marginalized HIV-positive women living in Ontario experience overlapping forms of stigma and discrimination and that these forms of stigma operate over micro, meso, and macro levels, as do the coping strategies adopted by the women. Together, these results support an intersectional model of stigma and discrimination that should help to inform discussions about the complexity of stigma and coping strategies. However, because only a small sample of nonrandomly selected women was involved in this study, these findings need to be confirmed in other groups of HIV-positive women. If confirmed, the complex system of interplay of different forms of stigma revealed here should help to inform health-care provision, stigma reduction interventions, and public-health policy, and could, ultimately, help to bring the global HIV epidemic under control.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment; its publication HIV and stigma deals with HIV-related stigma in the UK
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on women, HIV, and AIDS, on HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination, and on HIV/AIDS statistics for Canada (in English and Spanish)
The People Living with Stigma Index to address stigma relating to HIV and advocate on key barriers and issues perpetuating stigma; it has recently published Piecing it together for women and girls, the gender dimensions of HIV-related stigma; its website will soon include a selection of individual stories about HIV-related stigma
Patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert and through the charity website Healthtalkonline
PMCID: PMC3222645  PMID: 22131907
3.  Substance abuse prevalence and its relation to scholastic achievement and sport factors: an analysis among adolescents of the Herzegovina–Neretva Canton in Bosnia and Herzegovina 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:274.
Substance abuse among adolescents is a major public health and social problem. However, studies rarely investigate the relationships between substance abuse, educational achievement and sport factors. Substance abuse is an even more significant problem in societies that have experienced trauma, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, which have had recent wars. The aims of this study were to investigate substance abuse among adolescents in Bosnia and Herzegovina and to study the potential gender-specific relationships between a) sport factors (physical activity/exercise/athletic participation) and substance abuse and b) scholastic achievement and substance abuse.
Our sample consisted of 1,032 adolescents who were 17 to 18 years old (435 boys and 597 girls) and who were in the final grade of high school. These subjects were randomly selected from the territory of Herzegovina-Neretva Canton of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Retrospective testing was performed using an extensive self-administered questionnaire. The questionnaire included questions involving topics such as sociodemographic variables, scholastic variables, sport factors, and substance abuse data (smoking habits, drugs consumption and alcohol consumption using the AUDIT questionnaire). Descriptive statistics, frequencies, analyses of the differences and correlational analyses were performed.
Our results found that greater than one-third of the boys and one-fourth of the girls were daily smokers, and almost half of the boys and one-fifth of the girls practiced harmful drinking; other drugs (i.e. heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, etc.) were rarely consumed. Boys dominated in sport factors, whereas girls were more successful in scholastic achievement. Approximately 23% of the boys and 6% of the girls reported that they practiced harmful drinking and smoked simultaneously. Educational failure, which was defined as having one or more negative grades at the end of the last two school years, was identified in 20% of the boys and 9% of the girls. In both genders, substance abuse was negatively correlated with educational achievement, and half of those students who failed educationally reported daily smoking. Among the girls who experienced education failure, 33% were smokers, and 22% practiced harmful drinking. Sport factors were weakly correlated with substance abuse in boys; thus, we could not support the hypothesis that sports are a protective factor against substance abuse among male adolescents. In girls, participation in team sports was related with a higher incidence of smoking, but there was no evidence of sport factors having an influence on the consumption of alcohol.
In this study, the incidence of smoking and the consumption of alcohol were alarmingly high. These findings demonstrate the need for intervention programs to address these issues. These problems are particularly important, considering that substance abuse has a negative impact on educational achievement among boys and girls, and sport factors have not been found to be protective factors against substance abuse.
PMCID: PMC3407773  PMID: 22480230
Substance misuse; Drugs; Physical activity; Education
4.  Facility based cross-sectional study of self stigma among people with mental illness: towards patient empowerment approach 
Self stigma among people with mental illness results from multiple cognitive and environmental factors and processes. It can negatively affect adherence to psychiatric services, self esteem, hope, social integration and quality of life of people with mental illness. The purpose of this study was to measure the level of self stigma and its correlates among people with mental illness at Jimma University Specialized Hospital, Psychiatry clinic in southwest Ethiopia.
Facility based cross-sectional study was conducted on 422 consecutive samples of people with mental illness using interviewer administered and pretested internalized stigma of mental illness (ISMI) scale. Data was entered using EPI-DATA and analysis was done using STATA software. Bivariate and multivariate linear regressions were done to identify correlates of self stigma.
On a scale ranging from 1 to 4, the mean self stigma score was 2.32 (SD = 0.30). Females had higher self stigma (std. β = 0.11, P < 0.05) than males. Patients with a history of traditional treatment had higher self stigma (std. β = 0.11, P < 0.05). There was an inverse relationship between level of education and self-stigma (std. β = −0.17, P < 0.01). Perceived signs (std. β = 0.13, P < 0.05) and supernatural causes of mental illness (std. β = 0.16, P < 0.01) were positively correlated with self stigma. Higher number of drug side effects were positively correlated (std. β = 0.15, P < 0.05) while higher self esteem was negatively correlated (std. β = −0.14, P < 0.01) with self stigma.
High feeling of inferiority (alienation) but less agreement with common stereotypes (stereotype endorsement) was found. Female showed higher self stigma than male. History of traditional treatment and higher perceived supernatural explanation of mental illness were associated with higher self stigma. Drug side effects and perceived signs of mental illness were correlated with increased self stigma while education and self esteem decreased self stigma among people with mental illness. Patient empowerment psychosocial interventions and strategies to reduce drug side effects can be helpful in reducing self stigma among people with mental illnesses.
PMCID: PMC3848304  PMID: 24004512
Self stigma; Internalized stigma; Stigma; Mental illness; People with mental illness
5.  Examining Effects of Anticipated Stigma, Centrality, Salience, Internalization, and Outness on Psychological Distress for People with Concealable Stigmatized Identities 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e96977.
Understanding how stigmatized identities contribute to increased rates of depression and anxiety is critical to stigma reduction and mental health treatment. There has been little research testing multiple aspects of stigmatized identities simultaneously. In the current study, we collected data from a diverse, urban, adult community sample of people with a concealed stigmatized identity (CSI). We targeted 5 specific CSIs – mental illness, substance abuse, experience of domestic violence, experience of sexual assault, and experience of childhood abuse – that have been shown to put people at risk for increased psychological distress. We collected measures of the anticipation of being devalued by others if the identity became known (anticipated stigma), the level of defining oneself by the stigmatized identity (centrality), the frequency of thinking about the identity (salience), the extent of agreement with negative stereotypes about the identity (internalized stigma), and extent to which other people currently know about the identity (outness). Results showed that greater anticipated stigma, greater identity salience, and lower levels of outness each uniquely and significantly predicted variance in increased psychological distress (a composite of depression and anxiety). In examining communalities and differences across the five identities, we found that mean levels of the stigma variables differed across the identities, with people with substance abuse and mental illness reporting greater anticipated and internalized stigma. However, the prediction pattern of the variables for psychological distress was similar across the substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence, and childhood abuse identities (but not sexual assault). Understanding which components of stigmatized identities predict distress can lead to more effective treatment for people experiencing psychological distress.
PMCID: PMC4016201  PMID: 24817189
6.  Disengagement and Engagement Coping with HIV/AIDS Stigma and Psychological Well-Being of People with HIV/AIDS 
The stigma associated with HIV/AIDS poses a psychological challenge to people living with HIV/AIDS. We hypothesized that that the consequences of stigma-related stressors on psychological well-being would depend on how people cope with the stress of HIV/AIDS stigma. Two hundred participants with HIV/AIDS completed a self-report measure of enacted stigma and felt stigma, a measure of how they coped with HIV/AIDS stigma, and measures of depression and anxiety, and self-esteem. In general, increases in felt stigma (concerns with public attitudes, negative self-image, and disclosure concerns) coupled with how participants reported coping with stigma (by disengaging from or engaging with the stigma stressor) predicted self-reported depression, anxiety, and self-esteem. Increases in felt stigma were associated with increases in anxiety and depression among participants who reported relatively high levels of disengagement coping compared to participants who reported relatively low levels of disengagement coping. Increases in felt stigma were associated with decreased self-esteem, but this association was attenuated among participants who reported relatively high levels of engagement control coping. The data also suggested a trend that increases in enacted stigma predicted increases in anxiety, but not depression, among participants who reported using more disengagement coping. Mental health professionals working with people who are HIV positive should consider how their clients cope with HIV/AIDS stigma and consider tailoring current therapies to address the relationship between stigma, coping, and psychological well-being.
PMCID: PMC3355931  PMID: 22611302
Coping; HIV/AIDS; stigma; self-esteem; depression
7.  Factors Affecting Perceived Stigma in Leprosy Affected Persons in Western Nepal 
There are various factors which construct the perception of stigma in both leprosy affected persons and unaffected persons. The main purpose of this study was to determine the level of perceived stigma and the risk factors contributing to it among leprosy affected person attending the Green Pastures Hospital, Pokhara municipality of western Nepal.
A cross-sectional study was conducted among 135 people affected by leprosy at Green Pastures Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre. Persons above the age of 18 were interviewed using a set of questionnaire form and Explanatory Model Interview Catalogue (EMIC). In addition, two sets of focused group discussions each containing 10 participants from the ward were conducted with the objectives of answering the frequently affected EMIC items.
Among 135 leprosy affected persons, the median score of perceived stigma was 10 while it ranged from 0–34. Higher perceived stigma score was found in illiterate persons (p = 0.008), participants whose incomes were self-described as inadequate (p = 0.014) and who had changed their occupation due to leprosy (p = 0.018). Patients who lacked information on leprosy (p = 0.025), knowledge about the causes (p = 0.02) and transmission of leprosy (p = 0.046) and those who had perception that leprosy is a severe disease (p<0.001) and is difficult to treat (p<0.001) had higher perceived stigma score. Participants with disfigurement or deformities (p = 0.014), ulcers (p = 0.022) and odorous ulcers (p = 0.043) had higher perceived stigma score.
The factors associated with higher stigma were illiteracy, perceived economical inadequacy, change of occupation due to leprosy, lack of knowledge about leprosy, perception of leprosy as a severe disease and difficult to treat. Similarly, visible deformities and ulcers were associated with higher stigma. There is an urgent need of stigma reduction strategies focused on health education and health awareness programs in addition to the necessary rehabilitation support.
Author Summary
A total of 135 leprosy affected persons were interviewed with a questionnaire containing EMIC questions designed to assess the level of perceived stigma and the questionnaire containing variables for socio-demographic characteristics, knowledge about leprosy and the clinical presentations of the participants. Clinical presentation as disability was graded according to WHO guidelines, where grade 0 means no disability found, grade I means loss of sensation has been noted in the hand or foot while grade II means visible damage or disability. Total EMIC score was analyzed between sub-variables to see the factors associated with the higher level of perceived stigma score. Additionally, among the total participants, we included 20 of them who were admitted at hospital for various reasons. Two sets of focus group discussions were conducted with additional questions to derive the reasons behind frequently affected EMIC stigma domains. The factors associated with higher perceived stigma score were illiteracy (those who could not read and write), perceived economical inadequacy, lack of knowledge on leprosy, the perceptions as difficult to treat and severe disease and presence of visible deformities and ulcers. Considering our findings pertaining to higher perceived stigma, there is an urgent need of stigma reduction strategies which should focus on health education about leprosy that can change the perceived stigma in leprosy.
PMCID: PMC4046961  PMID: 24901307
8.  Risk of Violent Crime in Individuals with Epilepsy and Traumatic Brain Injury: A 35-Year Swedish Population Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(12):e1001150.
Seena Fazel and colleagues report findings from a longitudinal follow-up study in Sweden that evaluated the risks of violent crime subsequent to hospitalization for epilepsy, or traumatic brain injury. The researchers control for familial confounding with sibling controls. The analyses call into question an association between epilepsy and violent crime, although they do suggest that there may be a relationship between traumatic brain injury and violent crime.
Epilepsy and traumatic brain injury are common neurological conditions, with general population prevalence estimates around 0.5% and 0.3%, respectively. Although both illnesses are associated with various adverse outcomes, and expert opinion has suggested increased criminality, links with violent behaviour remain uncertain.
Methods and Findings
We combined Swedish population registers from 1973 to 2009, and examined associations of epilepsy (n = 22,947) and traumatic brain injury (n = 22,914) with subsequent violent crime (defined as convictions for homicide, assault, robbery, arson, any sexual offense, or illegal threats or intimidation). Each case was age and gender matched with ten general population controls, and analysed using conditional logistic regression with adjustment for socio-demographic factors. In addition, we compared cases with unaffected siblings.
Among the traumatic brain injury cases, 2,011 individuals (8.8%) committed violent crime after diagnosis, which, compared with population controls (n = 229,118), corresponded to a substantially increased risk (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 3.3, 95% CI: 3.1–3.5); this risk was attenuated when cases were compared with unaffected siblings (aOR = 2.0, 1.8–2.3). Among individuals with epilepsy, 973 (4.2%) committed a violent offense after diagnosis, corresponding to a significantly increased odds of violent crime compared with 224,006 population controls (aOR = 1.5, 1.4–1.7). However, this association disappeared when individuals with epilepsy were compared with their unaffected siblings (aOR = 1.1, 0.9–1.2). We found heterogeneity in violence risk by age of disease onset, severity, comorbidity with substance abuse, and clinical subgroups. Case ascertainment was restricted to patient registers.
In this longitudinal population-based study, we found that, after adjustment for familial confounding, epilepsy was not associated with increased risk of violent crime, questioning expert opinion that has suggested a causal relationship. In contrast, although there was some attenuation in risk estimates after adjustment for familial factors and substance abuse in individuals with traumatic brain injury, we found a significantly increased risk of violent crime. The implications of these findings will vary for clinical services, the criminal justice system, and patient charities.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
News stories linking mental illness (diseases that appear primarily as abnormalities of thought, feeling or behavior) with violence frequently hit the headlines. But what about neurological conditions—disorders of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves? People with these disorders, which include dementia, Parkinson's disease, and brain tumors, often experience stigmatization and discrimination, a situation that is made worse by the media and by some experts suggesting that some neurological conditions increase the risk of violence. For example, many modern textbooks assert that epilepsy—a neurological condition that causes repeated seizures or fits—is associated with increased criminality and violence. Similarly, various case studies have linked traumatic brain injury—damage to the brain caused by a sudden blow to the head—with an increased risk of violence.
Why Was This Study Done?
Despite public and expert perceptions, very little is actually known about the relationship between epilepsy and traumatic brain injury and violence. In particular, few if any population-based, longitudinal studies have investigated whether there is an association between the onset of either of these two neurological conditions and violence at a later date. This information might make it easier to address the stigma that is associated with these conditions. Moreover, it might help scientists understand the neurobiological basis of violence, and it could help health professionals appropriately manage individuals with these two disorders. In this longitudinal study, the researchers begin to remedy the lack of hard information about links between neurological conditions and violence by investigating the risk of violent crime associated with epilepsy and with traumatic brain injury in the Swedish population.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used the National Patient Register to identify all the cases of epilepsy and traumatic brain injury that occurred in Sweden between 1973 and 2009. They matched each case (nearly 23,000 for each condition) with ten members of the general population and retrieved data on all convictions for violent crime over the same period from the Crime Register. They then linked these data together using the personal identification numbers that identify Swedish residents in national registries. 4.2% of individuals with epilepsy had at least one conviction for violence after their diagnosis, but only 2.5% of the general population controls did. That is, epilepsy increased the absolute risk of a conviction for violence by 1.7%. Using a regression analysis that adjusted for age, gender, and various socio-demographic factors, the researchers calculated that the odds of individuals with epilepsy committing a violent crime were 1.5 times higher than for general population controls (an adjusted odds ratio [aOR] of 1.5). The strength of this association was reduced when further adjustment was made for substance abuse, and disappeared when individuals with epilepsy were compared with their unaffected siblings (a sibling control study). Similarly, 8.8% of individuals with traumatic brain injury were convicted of a violent crime after their diagnosis compared to only 3% of controls, giving an aOR of 3.3. Again, the strength of this association was reduced when affected individuals were compared to their unaffected siblings (aOR = 2.0) and when adjustment was made for substance abuse (aOR = 2.3).
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although some aspects of this study may have affected the accuracy of its findings, these results nevertheless challenge the idea that there are strong direct links between epilepsy and violent crime. The low absolute rate of violent crime and the lack of any association between epilepsy and violent crime in the sibling control study argue against a strong link, a potentially important finding given the stigmatization of epilepsy. For traumatic brain injury, the reduced association with violent crime in the sibling control study compared with the general population control study suggests that shared familial features may be responsible for some of the association between brain injury and violence. As with epilepsy, this finding should help patient charities who are trying to reduce the stigma associated with traumatic brain injury. Importantly, however, these findings also suggest that some groups of patients with these conditions (for example, patients with head injuries who abuse illegal drugs and alcohol) would benefit from being assessed for their risk of behaving violently and from appropriate management.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Jan Volavka
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides detailed information about traumatic brain injury and about epilepsy (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about severe head injury, including a personal story about a head injury sustained in a motor vehicle accident, and information about epilepsy, including personal stories about living with epilepsy
Healthtalkonline has information on epilepsy, including patient perspectives
MedlinePlus provide links to further resources on traumatic brain injury and on epilepsy (available in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC3246446  PMID: 22215988
9.  Stigma and the Acceptability of Depression Treatments Among African Americans and Whites 
Journal of General Internal Medicine  2007;22(9):1292-1297.
Stigma is associated with depression treatment, however, whether stigma differs between depression treatment modalities is not known, nor have racial differences in depression treatment stigma been fully explored.
To measure stigma for four depression treatments and estimate its association with treatment acceptability for African Americans and whites.
Cross-sectional, anonymous mailed survey.
Four hundred and ninety African-American and white primary care patients.
The acceptability of four depression treatments (prescription medication, mental health counseling, herbal remedy, and spiritual counseling) was assessed using a vignette. Treatment-specific stigma was evaluated by asking whether participants would: (1) feel ashamed; (2) feel comfortable telling friends and family; (3) feel okay if people in their community knew; and (4) not want people at work to know about each depression treatment. Sociodemographics, depression history, and current depressive symptoms were measured.
Treatment-specific stigma was lower for herbal remedy than prescription medication or mental health counseling (p < .01). Whites had higher stigma than African Americans for all treatment modalities. In adjusted analyses, stigma relating to self [AOR 0.43 (0.20–0.95)] and friends and family [AOR 0.42 (0.21–0.88)] was associated with lower acceptability of mental health counseling. Stigma did not account for the lower acceptability of prescription medication among African Americans.
Treatment associated stigma significantly affects the acceptability of mental health counseling but not prescription medication. Efforts to improve depression treatment utilization might benefit from addressing concerns about stigma of mental health counseling.
PMCID: PMC2219769  PMID: 17610120
stigma; depression treatment; patient preferences; ethnicity
10.  Stigma in Canada: Results From a Rapid Response Survey 
Our paper presents findings from the first population survey of stigma in Canada using a new measure of stigma. Empirical objectives are to provide a descriptive profile of Canadian’s expectations that people will devalue and discriminate against someone with depression, and to explore the relation between experiences of being stigmatized in the year prior to the survey among people having been treated for a mental illness with a selected number of sociodemographic and mental health–related variables.
Data were collected by Statistics Canada using a rapid response format on a representative sample of Canadians (n = 10 389) during May and June of 2010. Public expectations of stigma and personal experiences of stigma in the subgroup receiving treatment for a mental illness were measured.
Over one-half of the sample endorsed 1 or more of the devaluation discrimination items, indicating that they believed Canadians would stigmatize someone with depression. The item most frequently endorsed concerned employers not considering an application from someone who has had depression. Over one-third of people who had received treatment in the year prior to the survey reported discrimination in 1 or more life domains. Experiences of discrimination were strongly associated with perceptions that Canadians would devalue someone with depression, younger age (12 to 15 years), and self-reported poor general mental health.
The Mental Health Experiences Module reflects an important partnership between 2 national organizations that will help Canada fulfill its monitoring obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and provide a legacy to researchers and policy-makers who are interested in monitoring changes in stigma over time.
PMCID: PMC4213749  PMID: 25565699
stigma; stigma experiences; Devaluation Discrimination Scale; Opening Minds; Statistics Canada; Mental Health Experiences Module
11.  Characteristics linked to the reduction of stigma towards schizophrenia: a pre-and-post study of parents of adolescents attending an educational program 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:258.
The stigma of schizophrenia constitutes a major barrier to early detection and treatment of this illness. Anti-stigma education has been welcomed to reduce stigma among the general public. This study examined the factors associated with the effectiveness of a web-based educational program designed to reduce the stigma associated with schizophrenia.
Using Link’s Devaluation-Discrimination Scale to measure stigma, the effect of the program was measured by the difference in pre- and post-program tests. In the present study, we focused on program participants whose stigma towards schizophrenia had considerably improved (a reduction of three points or more between pre- and post-program tests) or considerably worsened (an increase of three points or more). The study participants were 1,058 parents of middle or high school students across Japan, including 508 whose stigma had significantly decreased after the program and 550 whose stigma had significantly increased. We used multiple logistic regression analysis to predict a considerable reduction in stigma (by three or more points) using independent variables measured before exposure to the program. In these models, we assessed the effects of demographic characteristics of the participants and four measures of knowledge and views on schizophrenia (basic knowledge, Link’s Devaluation-Discrimination Scale, ability to distinguish schizophrenia from other conditions, and social distance).
Participants’ employment status, occupation, basic knowledge of schizophrenia, pre-program Link’s Devaluation-Discrimination Scale score, and social distance were significant factors associated with a considerable decrease in the stigma attached to schizophrenia following the educational program. Specifically, full-time and part-time employees were more likely to experience reduced stigma than parents who were self-employed, unemployed, or had other employment status. Considerable decreases in stigma were more likely among parents working in transportation and communication or as homemakers than among other occupational groups. In addition, parents with higher pre-program levels of stigma, lower basic knowledge, or lower social distance were more likely to have reduced levels of stigma.
Based on the regression analysis results presented here, several possible methods of reducing stigma were suggested, including increasing personal contact with people with schizophrenia and the improvement of law and insurance systems in primary and secondary industries.
PMCID: PMC4000132  PMID: 24642069
Educational program; Stigma; Schizophrenia; Parents of adolescents; Multiple logistic regression
12.  Pathways Between Internalized Stigma and Outcomes Related to Recovery in Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders 
The mechanisms by which internalized stigma affects outcomes related to recovery among people with severe mental illness have yet to be explicitly studied. This study empirically evaluated a model for how internalized stigma affects important outcomes related to recovery.
A total of 102 persons with schizophrenia spectrum disorders completed measures of internalized stigma, awareness of mental illness, psychiatric symptoms, self-esteem, hopefulness, and coping. Path analyses tested a predicted model and an alternative model for the relationships between the variables.
Results from model 1 supported the view that internalized stigma increases avoidant coping, active social avoidance, and depressive symptoms and that these relationships are mediated by the impact of internalized stigma on hope and self-esteem. Results from model 2 replicated significant relationships from model 1 but also supported the hypothesis that positive symptoms may influence hope and self-esteem.
Findings from two models supported the hypothesis that internalized stigma affects hope and self-esteem, leading to negative outcomes related to recovery. It is recommended that interventions be developed and tested to address the important effects of internalized stigma on recovery.
PMCID: PMC2605316  PMID: 19033171
13.  The Association between Aids Related Stigma and Major Depressive Disorder among HIV-Positive Individuals in Uganda 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48671.
Major depressive disorder in people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) is common and may be associated with a number of factors, including AIDS-related stigma, decreased CD4 levels, increased opportunistic infections and sociodemographic variables. The extent to which AIDS-related stigma is associated with major depressive disorder among PLWHA has not been well studied in sub-Saharan Africa. The objective of this study was to examine the associations between major depressive disorder, AIDS-related stigma, immune status, and sociodemographic variables with the aim of making recommendations that can guide clinicians.
We assessed 368 PLWHA for major depressive disorder, as well as for potentially associated factors, including AIDS-related stigma, CD4 levels, presence of opportunistic infections, and sociodemographic variables.
The prevalence of major depressive disorder was 17.4%, while 7.9% of the participants had AIDS related stigma. At multivariable analysis, major depressive disorder was significantly associated with AIDS-related stigma [OR = 1.65, CI (1.20–2.26)], a CD4 count of ≥200 [OR 0.52 CI (0.27–0.99)], and being of younger age [0.95, CI (0.92–0.98).
Due to the high burden of major depressive disorder, and its association with AIDS related stigma, routine screening of PLWHA for both conditions is recommended. However, more research is required to understand this association.
PMCID: PMC3507871  PMID: 23209556
14.  The Consumption of Khat and Other Drugs in Somali Combatants: A Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(12):e341.
For more than a decade, most parts of Somalia have not been under the control of any type of government. This “failure of state” is complete in the central and southern regions and most apparent in Mogadishu, which had been for a long period in the hands of warlords deploying their private militias in a battle for resources. In contrast, the northern part of Somalia has had relatively stable control under regional administrations, which are, however, not internationally recognized. The present study provides information about drug abuse among active security personnel and militia with an emphasis on regional differences in relation to the lack of central governmental control—to our knowledge the first account on this topic.
Methods and Findings
Trained local interviewers conducted a total of 8,723 interviews of armed personnel in seven convenience samples in different regions of Somalia; 587 (6.3%) respondents discontinued the interview and 12 (0.001%) were excluded for other reasons. We assessed basic sociodemographic information, self-reported khat use, and how respondents perceived the use of khat, cannabis (which includes both hashish and marijuana), psychoactive tablets (e.g., benzodiazepines), alcohol, solvents, and hemp seeds in their units. The cautious interpretation of our data suggest that sociodemographic characteristics and drug use among military personnel differ substantially between northern and southern/central Somalia. In total, 36.4% (99% confidence interval [CI] 19.3%–57.7%) of respondents reported khat use in the week before the interview, whereas in some regions of southern/central Somalia khat use, especially excessive use, was reported more frequently. Self-reported khat use differed substantially from the perceived use in units. According to the perception of respondents, the most frequent form of drug use is khat chewing (on average, 70.1% in previous week, 99% CI 63.6%–76.5%), followed by smoking cannabis (10.7%, 99% CI 0%–30.4%), ingesting psychoactive tablets (8.5%, 99% CI 0%–24.4%), drinking alcohol (5.3%, 99% CI 0%–13.8%), inhaling solvents (1.8%, 99% CI 0%–5.1%), and eating hemp seeds (0.6%, 99% CI 0%–2.0%). Perceived use of khat differs little between northern and southern Somalia, but perceived use of other drugs reaches alarmingly high levels in some regions of the south, especially related to smoking cannabis and using psychoactive tablets.
Our data suggest that drug use has quantitatively and qualitatively changed over the course of conflicts in southern Somalia, as current patterns are in contrast to traditional use. Although future studies using random sampling methods need to confirm our results, we hypothesize that drug-related problems of armed staff and other vulnerable groups in southern Somalia has reached proportions formerly unknown to the country, especially as we believe that any biases in our data would lead to an underestimation of actual drug use. We recommend that future disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programs need to be prepared to deal with significant drug-related problems in Somalia.
Having interviewed military personnel in Somali, Michael Odenwald and colleagues conclude that drug-related problems, mainly relating to the use of khat, have reached proportions formerly unknown to the country.
Editors' Summary
Somalia—a country in eastern Africa—has been torn apart by civil war over the past few decades. Fighting among clans and warlords has caused the near-complete breakdown of state control in the central and southern regions of the country (including the capital, Mogadishu) although independent administrations provide some governmental control in the northern regions of Somaliland and Puntland. Efforts to establish a transitional federal government have largely failed and, to date, it has been impossible to initiate a nationwide disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) program in Somalia for ex-combatants, a key step in the transition from war to peace. As in other war-torn countries, the social and economic reintegration of ex-combatants into civil society in Somalia is likely to be difficult. However, without effective reintegration, ex-combatants may take up arms again because they have no means of economic support or become disaffected and seek to destabilize the peace.
Why Was This Study Done?
One risk factor for poor adjustment to civilian life among ex-combatants is substance abuse. Many ex-combatants use drugs to help them deal with traumatic war-related memories, but unrecognized drug abuse can hinder reintegration, increase criminality, and threaten the peace-building process. Most studies on substance abuse and treatment of drug-related problems of former combatants have been done in Western countries. Very little is known about how many ex-combatants abuse drugs and the types of drugs they abuse in postconflict regions in Africa. This information is needed if DDR programs are to be effective. In this study, therefore, the researchers have investigated drug use among “convenience” samples of combatants in seven regions of Somalia. Convenience samples are groups of people chosen to participate in a study because they were available rather than groups chosen randomly from the whole population.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Trained interviewers asked more than 8,000 military personnel about their own recent use of khat (chewing khat leaves releases an amphetamine-like stimulant), a legally traded drug in Somalia, where its use has long been commonplace. The interviewers also asked the respondents how much they thought others in their military personnel unit used khat and other drugs such as cannabis, psychoactive drugs (tranquilizers and other drugs that change mood, behavior, and thinking), solvents, alcohol, and hemp seeds. (Note that the researchers relied on perceived drug use; alcohol is illegal in Somalia, which is a Muslim country, and the use of drugs other than khat is not generally acknowledged.) Over the whole of Somalia, one-third of respondents said they had used khat recently. The highest levels of self-reported use were in southern/central Somalia, where up to two-thirds of combatants used it. More respondents in southern/central Somalia reported using an excessive amount of khat (more than two “bundles” of khat per day for one week) and having sleepless nights (a side-effect of khat) than in northern Somalia. The overall perceived use of khat (two-thirds of combatants) was higher than the self-reported use but similar in northern and southern/central regions. Finally, the perceived use of other drugs was highest in the southern/central regions.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The use of convenience samples (which may not be representative of the whole population) and other aspects of this study mean that the numerical values of these findings may be inaccurate. For example, the levels of self-reported khat use may be underestimates because drug-using combatants may have been undersampled or not all combatants may have responded honestly. Nevertheless, these findings confirm that khat is the most commonly consumed drug among combatants and reveal a large increase in the number of people using it in southern/central Somalia since the conflict began (only one in five adult males used khat in these regions in 1980). They also reveal that more khat is being consumed by some individuals than previously, particularly in the southern/central regions, and uncover a worrying increase in the perceived use of other drugs, again mainly in the southern/central regions. These changes in the traditional patterns of drug use in Somalia, if confirmed in studies that use random sampling methods, suggest that future DDR programs in Somalia will need to be prepared to deal with major drug-related problems and that drug use among the general population might have reached dimensions formerly unknown to the country.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Information about Somalia is available from the US Department of State, the United Nations, and Swiss Peace, a peace research institute
The US Council on Foreign Relations, the Beyond Intractability Knowledge Base Project (based at the University of Colorado), and the UN DDR Resource Centre provide general information on DDR programs
The Multi-Country Demobilization and Reintegration program provides additional information about ongoing DDR programs in other parts of Africa (in English and French)
DrugScope (a UK charity) provides information about khat
The US National Drug Intelligence Center provides information about khat in the US
The UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs provides an assessment of the risk of khat to individuals and communities in the UK
The Vivo Foundation supports programs that relieve the trauma of stress, including PTSD
PMCID: PMC2121109  PMID: 18076280
15.  Self-Stigma in Substance Abuse: Development of a New Measure 
Little attention has been paid to the examination and measurement of self-stigma in substance misuse. This paper aims to fill this gap by reporting on the development of a new scale to measure self-stigma experienced by people who are misusing substances, the Substance Abuse Self-Stigma Scale. Content validity and item refinement occurred through an iterative process involving a literature search, focus groups, and expert judges. Psychometric properties were examined in a cross-sectional study of individuals (n = 352) receiving treatment for substance misuse. Factor analyses resulted in a 40-item measure with self devaluation, fear of enacted stigma, stigma avoidance, and values disengagement subscales. The measure showed a strong factor structure and good reliability and validity overall, though the values disengagement subscale showed a mixed pattern. Results are discussed in terms of their implications for studies of stigma impact and intervention.
PMCID: PMC3680138  PMID: 23772099
stigma; substance misuse; psychometric; measure development
16.  Measuring Stigma in People With Lung Cancer: Psychometric Testing of the Cataldo Lung Cancer Stigma Scale 
Oncology nursing forum  2011;38(1):E46-E54.
To develop an instrument to measure the stigma perceived by people with lung cancer based on the HIV Stigma Scale.
Psychometric analysis.
Online survey.
186 patients with lung cancer.
An exploratory factor analysis with a common factor model using alpha factor extraction.
Main Research Variables
Lung cancer stigma, depression, and quality of life.
Four factors emerged: stigma and shame, social isolation, discrimination, and smoking. Inspection of un-rotated first-factor loadings showed support for a general stigma factor. Construct validity was supported by relationships with related constructs: self-esteem, depression, social support, and social conflict. Coefficient alphas ranging from 0.75–0.97 for the subscales (0.96 for stigma and shame, 0.97 for social isolation, 0.9 for discrimination, and 0.75 for smoking) and 0.98 for the 43-item Cataldo Lung Cancer Stigma Scale (CLCSS) provided evidence of reliability. The final version of the CLCSS was 31 items. Coefficient alpha was recalculated for the total stigma scale (0.96) and the four subscales (0.97 for stigma and shame, 0.96 for social isolation, 0.92 for discrimination, and 0.75 for smoking).
The CLCSS is a reliable and valid measure of health-related stigma in this sample of people with lung cancer.
Implications for Nursing
The CLCSS can be used to identify the presence and impact of lung cancer stigma and allow for the development of effective stigma interventions for patients with lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC3182474  PMID: 21186151
17.  Disentangling the stigma of HIV/AIDS from the stigmas of drugs use, commercial sex and commercial blood donation – a factorial survey of medical students in China 
BMC Public Health  2007;7:280.
HIV/AIDS related stigma interferes with the provision of appropriate care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS. Currently, programs to address the stigma approach it as if it occurs in isolation, separate from the co-stigmas related to the various modes of disease transmission including injection drug use (IDU) and commercial sex (CS). In order to develop better programs to address HIV/AIDS related stigma, the inter-relationship (or 'layering') between HIV/AIDS stigma and the co-stigmas needs to be better understood. This paper describes an experimental study for disentangling the layering of HIV/AIDS related stigmas.
The study used a factorial survey design. 352 medical students from Guangzhou were presented with four random vignettes each describing a hypothetical male. The vignettes were identical except for the presence of a disease diagnosis (AIDS, leukaemia, or no disease) and a co-characteristic (IDU, CS, commercial blood donation (CBD), blood transfusion or no co-characteristic). After reading each vignette, participants completed a measure of social distance that assessed the level of stigmatising attitudes.
Bivariate and multivariable analyses revealed statistically significant levels of stigma associated with AIDS, IDU, CS and CBD. The layering of stigma was explored using a recently developed technique. Strong interactions between the stigmas of AIDS and the co-characteristics were also found. AIDS was significantly less stigmatising than IDU or CS. Critically, the stigma of AIDS in combination with either the stigmas of IDU or CS was significantly less than the stigma of IDU alone or CS alone.
The findings pose several surprising challenges to conventional beliefs about HIV/AIDS related stigma and stigma interventions that have focused exclusively on the disease stigma. Contrary to the belief that having a co-stigma would add to the intensity of stigma attached to people with HIV/AIDS, the findings indicate the presence of an illness might have a moderating effect on the stigma of certain co-characteristics like IDU. The strong interdependence between the stigmas of HIV/AIDS and the co-stigmas of IDU and CS suggest that reducing the co-stigmas should be an integral part of HIV/AIDS stigma intervention within this context.
PMCID: PMC2180176  PMID: 17919317
18.  Stigma towards a Neglected Tropical Disease: Felt and enacted Stigma Scores among Podoconiosis Patients in Northern Ethiopia 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:1178.
Podoconiosis, or non-filarial elephantiasis, is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) characterised by swelling of the lower legs. When left untreated, this disfiguring condition has a significant social impact. This study aimed to describe the stigma experience among podoconiosis patients in Dembecha, Northern Ethiopia and assess potential associations between stigma and sociodemographic determinants.
The study was conducted in May 2012 in Northern Ethiopia. A questionnaire-based cross-sectional study design was used and stigma was assessed using a validated podoconiosis stigma scale including 'felt’ and 'enacted’ stigma domains. Enacted stigma includes the experience of discrimination such as abuse, loss of employment or prejudicial attitudes, while felt stigma is the perceived fear of enacted stigma. A multivariable linear regression model was used to explore determinants that may be associated with stigma.
A total of 346 clinically confirmed podoconiosis patients participated in the study. The total mean score of all stigma scale items was 30.7 (Range = 0 to 96). There was a higher mean score of scale items in domains of felt stigma (21.7; Range = 0 to 45) as compared to enacted stigma (9.0; Range = 0 to 51). The total mean score of all stigma scale items appeared to increase with disease stage. A final adjusted linear regression model found an association between stigma and factors including monthly income, duration lived in the current residence, and disease stage, after controlling for confounders.
Podoconiosis is a stigmatized disease with a clear social impact. This paper documented the burden of podoconiosis-related stigma and identified associated factors. Programs aimed at preventing and treating podoconiosis should incorporate interventions to mitigate both felt and enacted stigma. Interventions targeting patients should prioritize those with advanced disease.
PMCID: PMC3878751  PMID: 24330684
Podoconiosis; Stigma; Discrimination; NTD; Ethiopia
19.  Health-Related Outcomes of Adverse Childhood Experiences in Texas, 2002 
Preventing Chronic Disease  2010;7(3):A52.
We assessed the prevalence of 7 childhood adversities (psychological, physical, and sexual abuse; household mental illness; household substance abuse; maternal battery; and incarceration of a household member) and the associations of those adversities with health outcomes.
Using data from 5,378 people who responded to the 2002 Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey (which included questions about childhood adversity), we created 4 groups: no childhood abuse or household dysfunction, childhood abuse only, household dysfunction only, and both childhood abuse and household dysfunction. We examined groups by sociodemographic variables and the association with current smoking, obesity, and self-rated health.
Among adult respondents, 46% reported at least 1 childhood adversity. Reports of both household dysfunction and abuse were significantly lower for college graduates than for people with less education. For those with both abuse and household dysfunction, the odds of current smoking were 1.9 and for obesity were 1.3. Compared to people without childhood adversities, people who experienced childhood adversities more frequently reported having fair or poor general health status.
Childhood adversities are common among Texas adults. People with childhood adversities are more likely to be socioeconomically disadvantaged, less educated, and have difficulties maintaining employment in adulthood compared to people with no adversities. Moreover, childhood adversities appear to be associated with health problems such as current smoking, obesity, and poor or fair general health among Texas adults.
PMCID: PMC2879984  PMID: 20394691
20.  Intersection of suicidality and substance abuse among young Asian-American women: implications for developing interventions in young adulthood 
Advances in dual diagnosis  2014;7(2):90-104.
The purpose of this paper is to provide a review of the current literature uncovering specific factors associated with self-harm and suicidality among young Asian American women, as well as to present the Fractured Identity Model as a framework for understanding these factors. This paper offers concrete suggestions for the development of culturally competent interventions to target suicidality, substance abuse, and mental illness among young Asian American women.
Empirical studies and theory-based papers featured in peer-reviewed journals between 1990 and 2014 were identified through scholarly databases, such as PubMed, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, JSTOR, and Google Scholar.
We identified several factors associated with suicidality among young Asian American women: (1) family dynamics, or having lived in a household where parents practice “disempowering parenting styles,” (2) substance use/abuse, and (3) untreated mental illness(es), which are exacerbated by the stigma and shame attached to seeking out mental health services. The Fractured Identity Model by Hahm et al. (2014) is presented as a possible pathway from disempowering parenting to suicidal and self-harm behaviors among this population, with substance abuse playing a significant mediating role. Research limitations/implications – Our review focused on Asian American women, substance use among Asian Americans, and mental health among Asian Americans. Literature that focused on Asians living in Asia or elsewhere outside of the USA was excluded from this review; the review was limited to research conducted in the USA and written in the English language.
Practical implications
The complex interplay among Asian American culture, family dynamics, gender roles/expectations, and mental health justifies the development of a suicide and substance abuse intervention that is tailored to the culture- and gender-specific needs of Asian Pacific Islander young women. It is imperative for professionals in the fields of public health, mental health, medicine, and substance abuse to proactively combat the “model minority” myth and to design and implement interventions targeting family dynamics, coping with immigration/acculturative stresses, mental illnesses, suicidal behaviors, and substance abuse among Asian-American populations across the developmental lifespan.
This paper provides specific suggestions for interventions to adequately respond to the mental health needs of young Asian-American women. These include addressing the cultural stigma and shame of seeking help, underlying family origin issues, and excessive alcohol and drug use as unsafe coping, as well as incorporating empowerment-based and mind-body components to foster an intervention targeting suicidality among Asian-American women in early adulthood.
PMCID: PMC4095878  PMID: 25031627
21.  Stigma among Individuals with Substance Use Disorders: Does it Predict Substance Use, and Does it Diminish with Treatment? 
Drug and alcohol use-related stigma affects employment, physical and mental health, and has been shown to be a barrier to seeking treatment. Thus, the need to address stigma in substance use disorders treatment has been noted in the clinical literature. We aimed to examine whether stigma is related to alcohol/substance use as well as whether treatment as usual for substance use disorders affects stigma, depressive symptoms, and quality of life.
Participants were individuals attending intensive outpatient treatment for substance use disorders. Baseline sample consisted of 17 Caucasian, predominantly male (i.e. 65%) participants, averaging 34.06 years of age. At post-treatment and one month follow-up assessments there were 12 and 7 participants respectively.
Higher post-treatment stigma was significantly related to a greater number of drug use days at follow-up. We did not find significant differences between baseline, post-treatment and follow-up assessment on self-stigma. However, participants reported a significant decrease in symptoms of depression from baseline to post-treatment and a significant increase in these symptoms between post-treatment and follow-up.
Our results suggest that stigma may have a detrimental impact on substance use. Also, while depressive symptoms may improve as a result of treatment as usual for substance use disorders, symptoms of depression may worsen shortly after treatment. These results highlight the need for more work on these relationships due to the very preliminary nature of these findings.
PMCID: PMC4307942  PMID: 25635257
Stigma; Treatment; Substance use disorders
22.  Substance Use Related Stigma: What we Know and the Way Forward 
To conduct a systematic review of the literature investigating the relationship between stigma experienced by individuals who use drugs.
We conducted an online literature search and identified articles related to stigma among individuals who use drugs. Studies evaluating associations between stigma and socio-demographic variables and if applicable clinical and substance use variables are presented. In addition, recommendations for future research are provided.
We identified 26 articles describing 28 studies evaluating stigma. The majorities of studies were published in the last 11 years and conducted in the U.S. Samples were relatively diverse: 41.7% of all participants who provided data identified as racial/ethnic minorities. The vast majority of the relationships between stigma and socio-demographic characteristics were included in only one or very few studies, which limits conclusions. The relationship between stigma and psychological well-being is the only consistent finding reported in the literature. Specifically, results suggest that stigma has a detrimental effect on psychological well-being among individuals who use drugs.
While this literature is expanding at a rapid pace, this review indicates several areas for future research and needed improvements in research methodology in this area. Specifically, lack of comprehensive description of sample characteristics, lack of construct identification and proper definition, a dearth of longitudinal studies and limited research describing relationships between stigma and substance use behavior are a few areas identified for further research.
PMCID: PMC4228689  PMID: 25401117
Literature review; Stigma; Substance use
23.  Predictors of Quality of Life in Portuguese Obese Patients: A Structural Equation Modeling Application 
Journal of Obesity  2014;2014:684919.
Living with obesity is an experience that may affect multiple aspects of an individual's life. Obesity is considered a relevant public health problem in modern societies. To determine the comparative efficacy of different treatments and to assess their impact on patients' everyday life, it is important to identify factors that are relevant to the quality of life of obese patients. The present study aims to evaluate, in Portuguese obese patients, the simultaneous impact of several psychosocial factors on quality of life. This study also explores the mediating role of stigma in the relationship between positive/negative affect and quality of life. A sample of 215 obese patients selected from the main hospitals in Portugal completed self-report questionnaires to assess sociodemographic, clinical, psychosocial, and quality of life variables. Data were analysed using structural equation modeling. The model fitted the data reasonably well, CFI = 0.9, RMSEA = 0.06. More enthusiastic and more active patients had a better quality of life. Those who reflect lower perception of stigma had a better physical and mental health. Partial mediation effects of stigma between positive affect and mental health and between negative affect and physical health were found. The stigma is pervasive and causes consequences for psychological and physical health.
PMCID: PMC3945172  PMID: 24693421
24.  HIV/AIDS Stigma Attitudes among Educators in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa 
The Journal of School Health  2010;80(11):561-569.
One hundred and twenty educators from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, underwent HIV/AIDS training. The educators were surveyed about their attitudes toward people with HIV.
The educators completed self-administered survey questionnaires both before and after two interventions. Measures included demographic characteristics, teachers' knowledge about HIV/AIDS, self-efficacy in handling HIV/AIDS situations, and attitudes (stigma and otherwise) towards HIV-related issues.
The first intervention was a CD-ROM and the second intervention involved educators receiving a two day workshop on HIV transmission, risk factors, and actions that educators should know and undertake.
The first step entailed testing the stigma instrument for its internal consistency, and developing and testing potential subscales from the instrument. The second step entailed testing for the statistical associations between stigma (as measured by the stigma instrument and its subscales) and various demographic and HIV knowledge related variables.
The overall stigma scale had a Cronbach alpha coefficient of 0.66. Educators in the workshop generally had lower baseline levels of stigma than those in the CD-ROM intervention. Following both interventions the stigma levels of both groups of educators were significantly reduced. The levels of stigma reduction varied by educators' demographic indicators. The largest reductions in stigma were reported for those educators who had better general AIDS knowledge; better knowledge about risk of transmission; university education, rural residence and younger age.
The levels of teachers' stigma attitudes were statistically significantly lower after both types of HIV/AIDS training and were also statistically significantly associated with improvements in HIV knowledge.
PMCID: PMC3366282  PMID: 21039555
School Psychology; Risk Behaviors; Human Sexuality; Health Educators
25.  The effectiveness of interventions for reducing stigma related to substance use disorders: a systematic review 
Addiction (Abingdon, England)  2012;107(1):39-50.
This study provides a systematic review of existing research that has empirically evaluated interventions designed to reduce stigma related to substance use disorders.
A comprehensive review of electronic databases was conducted to identify evaluations of substance use disorder related stigma interventions. Studies that met inclusion criteria were synthesized and assessed using systematic review methods.
Thirteen studies met the inclusion criteria. The methodological quality of the studies was moderately strong. Interventions of three studies (23%) focused on people with substance use disorders (self-stigma), three studies (23%) targeted the general public (social stigma) and seven studies (54%) focused on medical students and other professional groups (structural stigma). Nine interventions (69%) used approaches that included education and/or direct contact with people who have substance use disorders. All but one study indicated their interventions produced positive effects on at least one stigma outcome measure. None of the interventions have been evaluated across different settings or populations.
A range of interventions demonstrate promise for achieving meaningful improvements in stigma related to substance use disorders. The limited evidence indicates that self-stigma can be reduced through therapeutic interventions such as group-based acceptance and commitment therapy. Effective strategies for addressing social stigma include motivational interviewing and communicating positive stories of people with substance use disorders. For changing stigma at a structural level, contact-based training and education programs targeting medical students and professionals (e.g. police, counsellors) are effective.
PMCID: PMC3272222  PMID: 21815959
Intervention studies; stigma; substance use disorders; systematic review

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