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Papers: 18 May 2024 - 24 May 2024

2024 May 16



A systematic review with meta-analyses of the association between stigma and chronic pain outcomes.


Hickling LM, Allani S, Cella M, Scott W


Stigma is common in people experiencing chronic pain and there are indications that it may adversely affect pain outcomes. However, to date, there is no systematic review exploring the impact of stigma on chronic pain-related outcomes. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to examine the association between stigma and key chronic pain outcomes and differences in stigma between pain conditions. Seven databases were searched for studies reporting a measure of association between stigma and at least one pain outcome in adults with chronic pain. Studies were screened by 2 independent researchers. Nineteen studies met eligibility criteria and data were extracted, quality-assessed, and narratively synthesised and meta-analysed where possible. Meta-analyses of bivariate cross-sectional correlations demonstrated significant positive correlations between stigma and pain intensity, disability, and depression, with small to moderate effects. Data from 2 prospective studies and those only reporting multivariate analyses that were not included in meta-analyses further supported these findings. There was some evidence that individuals who experience pain conditions with less clear pathophysiology may report greater stigma, although more research is needed. The review highlights that there is a growing number of studies on stigma in the pain field showing an adverse association between stigma and chronic pain outcomes.