Stigma as a fundamental cause of population health inequalities

Am J Public Health. 2013 May;103(5):813-21. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.301069. Epub 2013 Mar 14.


Bodies of research pertaining to specific stigmatized statuses have typically developed in separate domains and have focused on single outcomes at 1 level of analysis, thereby obscuring the full significance of stigma as a fundamental driver of population health. Here we provide illustrative evidence on the health consequences of stigma and present a conceptual framework describing the psychological and structural pathways through which stigma influences health. Because of its pervasiveness, its disruption of multiple life domains (e.g., resources, social relationships, and coping behaviors), and its corrosive impact on the health of populations, stigma should be considered alongside the other major organizing concepts for research on social determinants of population health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Employment
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Mentally Ill Persons / psychology
  • Minority Groups / psychology
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Self Concept*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Social Isolation / psychology
  • Social Stigma*
  • Sociology, Medical*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*