Background: Most people with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience social stigma at mild-to-moderate levels, with potential implications for their health. However, little is known about how adults adapt to social stigma across their lives, or with respect to MS stigma in particular. Using a large national database and controlling for confounding demographic and health-related variables, this study examined whether longer MS duration was associated with reports of stigma in people with MS. Methods: Data were available from 6771 participants enrolled in the semiannual survey conducted by the North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis (NARCOMS). Participants completed measures of MS stigma and reported on demographic and health-related covariates. Results: With disability level, age, and other demographic and health-related covariates taken into account, the longer respondents had lived with MS, the less stigma they felt. Results were similar for people's anticipation of stigma and their feelings of isolation because of stigma. Conclusions: As people gain experience living with MS, their adaptations to the social aspects of their illness may allow them to structure their lives so that they can mitigate the impact of stigma. Doctors, therapists, and other health care personnel should consider that patients with MS might be especially concerned and distressed by stigma earlier in the course of their illness.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Neurology
- Advanced and Specialized Nursing