Chronic Illness Stigma: The Experiences of Emerging Adults

Honors Program

Honors in Psychology

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Stacey L. Williams

Thesis Professor Department



Individuals with chronic illness often face the added burden of stigma associated with their chronic conditions. Stigma has been associated with fewer psychosocial resources of social support, self-esteem, and self-compassion, as well as less access and usage of mental and physical healthcare. However, it is unclear whether stigma experiences vary by age of the individuals with chronic illness. It was hypothesized that emerging adults would report more perceived stigma, fewer psychosocial resources and less access to medical treatments. It was additionally hypothesized that perceived stigma would mediate the association between age and outcomes. 197 participants completed an online survey using Survey Monkey. Results of multiple regression analysis testing for mediation did not support hypotheses. In fact, emerging adults reported easier access to treatments than older adults. Post-hoc analyses were conducted and revealed that among emerging adults – but not older adults – perceived stigma was significantly related to less access to medical treatments. Thus, age may moderate the impact of stigma of chronic illness on access to healthcare in individuals with chronic illness, rather than predict more or less stigma of chronic illness. This indicates that in spite of easier access to care for emerging adults, increased stigma might interfere with their seeking of that care. Future studies should examine the impact of stigma on emerging adults’ treatment access.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


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