Psychosocial Impact of Acne Vulgaris: Evaluating the Evidence

J. K. L. Tan, MD, FRCPC


Skin Therapy Letter. 2004;9(7) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

This paper reviews current evidence presented by recent studies on the impact of acne on psychosocial health. Study methodologies, including case-control and cross-sectional surveys, have demonstrated psychological abnormalities including depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, including pain and discomfort, embarrassment and social inhibition. Effective treatment of acne was accompanied by improvement in self-esteem, affect, obsessive-compulsiveness, shame, embarrassment, body image, social assertiveness and self-confidence. Acne is associated with a greater psychological burden than a variety of other disparate chronic disorders. Future studies with a longitudinal cohort design may provide further validation of the causal inference between acne and psychosocial disability provided by the current literature.

The interaction of acne and psychosocial issues is complex and, in adolescence, can be associated with developmental issues of body image, socialization and sexuality. Previous studies on the psychosocial impact of acne have documented dissatisfaction with appearance, embarrassment, self-consciousness, and lack of self-confidence in acne patients. Social dysfunction has also been observed, including concerns about social interactions with the opposite gender, appearances in public, interaction with strangers, and reduced employment opportunities.

The development of psychometric scales to measure the impact of disease on abstract concepts and the notion of Quality of Life (QoL) has facilitated greater understanding of the impact of acne on psychological well-being and socialization. This paper reviews the current evidence presented by some of these studies in evaluating the impact of acne on psychosocial health.


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