Stigmas and Myths About Psoriasis Are Still Common
Stigmatizing views about psoriasis, including the belief that the skin condition is contagious, are prevalent among the general US population, according to the findings of a recent study conducted by Rebecca L. Pearl, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in the department of psychiatry at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues.1
“Although it is widely recognized that the appearance of psoriasis can negatively impact patients’ social, professional, and intimate relationships, we wanted to quantify the perceptions patients with psoriasis face on a daily basis in order to understand how pervasive they are,” said Joel M. Gelfand, MD, MSCE, co-author of the study and professor of dermatology and epidemiology at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.2
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In the study, Dr Pearl and colleagues recruited 198 participants from Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) website, a crowdsourcing Internet marketplace, and 187 medical students, who were enrolled using email. Participants completed an online survey that included images of individuals with psoriasis and were asked to report their desire to avoid the person with psoriasis, emotional responses to the images, and their endorsement of psoriasis-related stereotypes and myths.
MTurk participants were more likely to endorse social avoidance items on the survey, including not wanting to shake hands with someone with psoriasis (39.4%), not wanting someone with psoriasis in their home (32.3%), and not wanting to date someone with psoriasis (54%). In addition, MTurk participants endorsed several stereotypes about individuals with psoriasis, including viewing individuals with psoriasis as sick (53%), unattractive (45%), and contagious (27.3%), as well as not seeing psoriasis as a serious disease (26.8%). Those who knew someone with psoriasis or had heard of psoriasis before the survey had less stigmatizing attitudes. Compared with MTurk participants, medical students reported less stigmatizing attitudes.
While studies with a larger sample sizes are needed to confirm the findings, the results have implications for public health campaigns and patient care. “It is possible that better education about the disease, as well as contact with individuals with psoriasis, may help to dispel myths and stereotypes and reduce negative perceptions,” said Dr Pearl.
“Future studies should evaluate the effects of education campaigns on people’s attitudes toward those with psoriasis, as well as efforts to incorporate patients with psoriasis into general medical education for physicians and other health care providers,” added Dr Gelfand.
1. Pearl RL, Wan MT, Takeshita J, Gelfand JM. Stigmatizing attitudes toward persons with psoriasis among laypersons and medical students [published online before print August 29, 2018]. J Am Acad Dermatol. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2018.08.014
2. Stigmatizing views and myths about psoriasis are pervasive in the United States [press release]. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, August 30, 2018. https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-releases/2018/august/stigmatizing-views-and-myths-about-psoriasis-are-pervasive-in-the-united-states. Accessed September 4, 2018.