Judgment hurts: The psychological consequences of experiencing stigma in multiple sclerosis

Margaret H. Cadden, Peter A. Arnett, Tuula M. Tyry, Jonathan E. Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Rationale: People living with MS often report feeling stigmatized, but little research has examined the psychological impact of this, which is important considering the high prevalence of depression in this population. Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess, concurrently and prospectively, the association between stigma and depression in people living with MS. Methods: Data were available from 5369 participants enrolled in the semi-annual survey conducted by the North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis (NARCOMS). Participants reported their MS stigma and depression in the spring 2013 update survey (T1) and their depression again one year later (T2). Demographic and health-related covariates were also assessed. Results: People experiencing higher levels of stigma reported more depression symptoms and were more likely to meet the threshold for clinical depression at both times, even controlling for covariates. Higher levels of stigma also predicted T2 depression, controlling for T1 depression (and covariates), suggesting a possible causal association. Greater psychosocial reserve, a composite of measures assessing participants’ feelings of belonging, social support, and sense of control, attenuated the association between stigma and depression. Conclusions: Stigma is an important but understudied predictor of depression in people living with MS, but greater psychosocial reserve provides a buffer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)158-164
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Jul 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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