The Need for Stigma Research and Action

Heather Stuart


Stigma and discrimination affect the lives of people who are perceived as different from the norm in some important way—the physically or mentally disabled, those who are overweight or obese, those who suffer from infectious diseases ranging from leprosy to HIV/AIDS, as well as members of certain cultural and minority groups. While the exact mechanisms are unknown, the stigmatization process most certainly includes a complex array of personal, interpersonal, and structural components. Link and Phelan (2001) refer to this as a labyrinth of details that creates substantial social inequalities in life circumstances even when it is difficult for an individual to specify any single causal event. Multiple, mutually reinforcing mechanisms are used by dominant groups to maintain their pre-eminence. When one mechanism is weakened, another is strengthened. Over time the process becomes increasingly complex, subtle, and covert.



Friis, R.H., & Sellers, T.A. (1996) Epidemiology for public health practice. Gaithersburg, Maryland: Aspen Publishers, Inc.

Link, B.G., & Phelan, J.C. (2001). Conceptualizing stigma. Annual Review of Sociology, 27: 363-385.

Sartorius, N., & Schulze H. (2005). Reducing the stigma of mental illness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Full Text: PDF

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 License.