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Stigma revisited, disclosure of emotional problems in primary care consultations in Wales


  • Prior, Lindsay
  • Wood, Fiona
  • Lewis, Glyn
  • Pill, Roisin


The nature and effects of stigma have been widely discussed in the context of mental illness, and references to stigma are commonly used to explain a wide array of social processes. For example, it is often claimed that stigmatisation affects aspects of personal identity, that it underpins unjust and discriminatory behaviour, and that it is responsible for a reluctance among members of the lay public to disclose the presence of treatable psychiatric symptoms and problems to health professionals. A widespread reluctance to disclose symptoms of 'emotional problems' to health professionals is in fact well documented. Yet the reasons for such patterns of behaviour are far from clear. However, in this paper, on the basis of qualitative data collected from primary care attendees in Wales (N=127), the authors suggest that appeals to stigma are inadequate to explain the phenomenon. More likely, it seems, is that members of the lay public have markedly different images from health professionals of what constitutes a mild to moderate psychiatric problem. Consequently, it is argued that the phenomenon of non-disclosure could be viewed more accurately as a problem of alternative taxonomic systems than of fear of stigma. The implications of the argument for health practice and theory are outlined.

Suggested Citation

  • Prior, Lindsay & Wood, Fiona & Lewis, Glyn & Pill, Roisin, 2003. "Stigma revisited, disclosure of emotional problems in primary care consultations in Wales," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 56(10), pages 2191-2200, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:56:y:2003:i:10:p:2191-2200

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    Cited by:

    1. Barnes, Maria Carla & Buck, Rhiannon & Williams, Gareth & Webb, Katie & Aylward, Mansel, 2008. "Beliefs about common health problems and work: A qualitative study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(4), pages 657-665, August.
    2. Kokanovic, Renata & Dowrick, Christopher & Butler, Ella & Herrman, Helen & Gunn, Jane, 2008. "Lay accounts of depression amongst Anglo-Australian residents and East African refugees," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 454-466, January.
    3. repec:eee:socmed:v:197:y:2018:i:c:p:183-191 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Livingston, James D. & Boyd, Jennifer E., 2010. "Correlates and consequences of internalized stigma for people living with mental illness: A systematic review and meta-analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(12), pages 2150-2161, December.
    5. Coker, Elizabeth M., 2005. "Selfhood and social distance: Toward a cultural understanding of psychiatric stigma in Egypt," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(5), pages 920-930, September.
    6. Murray, Joanna & Banerjee, Sube & Byng, Richard & Tylee, Andre & Bhugra, Dinesh & Macdonald, Alastair, 2006. "Primary care professionals' perceptions of depression in older people: a qualitative study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(5), pages 1363-1373, September.
    7. Olafsdottir, Sigrun & Pescosolido, Bernice A., 2011. "Constructing illness: How the public in eight Western nations respond to a clinical description of "schizophrenia"," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(6), pages 929-938, September.
    8. Davidson, Joyce, 2005. "Contesting stigma and contested emotions: Personal experience and public perception of specific phobias," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(10), pages 2155-2164, November.


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