Study: Stigmatization Widespread Among Europeans With Skin Diseases

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Almost all European people who are affected by skin diseases face embarrassment, with the psychological burden compounding the physical impact of living with the condition, according to a new report, The Burden of Skin Disease in Europe, which published today in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (JEADV).

For the study, researchers analyzed 19,015 individuals with a range of skin diseases and revealed the huge psychological toll of living with a disease. The diseases examined included, amongst others, fungal skin infections, acne, atopic dermatitis, alopecia, psoriasis, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

About 9 in 10 (88%) patients with skin disease considered their disease to be embarrassing in their personal life, with 83% reporting the same in their working life. Furthermore, almost 25% reported to have changed their professional activity due to their disease, and work life was particularly impaired in patients with acne (48%) and urticaria (60%). 

Almost half of the adult European population had ar least one dermatological disease.  The prevalence of skin diseases is likely to be significantly higher than this, and 40% of skin cancers and STD diagnoses remain unrecognized on the first consultation and diagnosed at later consultations.

 “This study highlights the alarming psychosocial challenge faced by individuals with skin diseases and underscores the need to provide psychological support to patients, and to mitigate the stigmatisation that patients endure in their personal and professional lives,” says study author Professor Marie-Aleth Richard in a news release.  She is a professor of dermatology at the University Hospital of La Timone, Marseille,  “With a profound impact on mental health, these common diseases exert a significant toll on patients’ quality of life.”

Public perception of dermatologists across Europe is encouraging. Eight in 10 (81%) patients report that they are satisfied with their dermatology service and the medical information they receive.

“The burden is huge”, adds Professor Myrto Trakatelli, Chair of EADV’s Advocacy Working Group and an associate professor at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece. “In spite of this, skin diseases are systematically underestimated, and only a small number of interventions on tackling associated stigmatization have been published,” Trakatelli says.

“Urgent action must now be taken to raise awareness of the impact that skin diseases have on individuals, economies and society and to ensure that patients receive the holistic care they need, including mental health support. Eliminating stigma across the field is of paramount importance to really improve the life of the many patients living with skin diseases, so we call on policymakers to take concerted action to address both the physical and psychological burden of skin diseases.”

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