Living with a concealable stigmatized identity: the impact of anticipated stigma, centrality, salience, and cultural stigma on psychological distress and health

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2009 Oct;97(4):634-51. doi: 10.1037/a0015815.


The current research provides a framework for understanding how concealable stigmatized identities impact people's psychological well-being and health. The authors hypothesize that increased anticipated stigma, greater centrality of the stigmatized identity to the self, increased salience of the identity, and possession of a stigma that is more strongly culturally devalued all predict heightened psychological distress. In Study 1, the hypotheses were supported with a sample of 300 participants who possessed 13 different concealable stigmatized identities. Analyses comparing people with an associative stigma to those with a personal stigma showed that people with an associative stigma report less distress and that this difference is fully mediated by decreased anticipated stigma, centrality, and salience. Study 2 sought to replicate the findings of Study 1 with a sample of 235 participants possessing concealable stigmatized identities and to extend the model to predicting health outcomes. Structural equation modeling showed that anticipated stigma and cultural stigma were directly related to self-reported health outcomes. Discussion centers on understanding the implications of intraindividual processes (anticipated stigma, identity centrality, and identity salience) and an external process (cultural devaluation of stigmatized identities) for mental and physical health among people living with a concealable stigmatized identity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety Disorders / complications
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Association
  • Culture*
  • Depressive Disorder / complications
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Ego
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Social Identification*
  • Social Perception
  • Stereotyping*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Students / psychology