Avoiding Social Stigmatisation of Long COVID-19

Heather Mason

March 03, 2021

A letter published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health explores the negative effects of social stigmatisation of people affected by persistent somatic COVID-19 symptoms, providing some actions to mitigate it.

Long COVID-19 is defined by persistent symptoms that are still reported three weeks post-infection. The evidence suggests that people who have recovered from COVID-19 but are still experiencing symptoms are no longer contagious. However, they still can be stigmatised by bystanders and healthcare professionals.

This stigma stems from the dualistic thinking of body versus mind and the perception that if nothing is wrong with the body, then the symptoms experienced by long COVID-19 sufferers are just in their minds. People’s perceived inability to waver their symptoms projects blame towards people affected by these persistent somatic symptoms, which in turn negatively impacts help-seeking behaviour.

Some actions to mitigate and to avoid social stigmatisation in people affected by long COVID-19 are:

  • Not assuming a psychological cause for long COVID-19 in the absence of detectable pathological abnormalities,

  • Avoiding the attribution of blame,

  • Showing empathy and being aware of trivialising people’s persistent somatic symptoms,

  • Not judging the personal narratives of people affected by long COVID-19.

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Ballering A, Hartman TO, Rosmalen J. Long COVID-19, persistent somatic symptoms and social stigmatisation. J Epidemiol Community Health 2021. https://doi.org/10.1136/jech-2021-216643.

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This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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