Health inequality implications from a qualitative study of experiences of poverty stigma in Scotland

Inglis, Greig and McHardy, Fiona and Sosu, Edward and McAteer, John and Biggs, Hannah (2019) Health inequality implications from a qualitative study of experiences of poverty stigma in Scotland. Social Science and Medicine, 232. pp. 43-49. ISSN 0277-9536

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    Rationale: Individuals living in Scotland's most deprived communities experience a higher burden of morbidity and early mortality than those living in more affluent areas. Experiences of poverty-based stigma may be one psychosocial mechanism through which socioeconomic position influences health, although there is little available data on this issue from a Scottish perspective. Objective: The aim of this study was to identify which aspects of poverty stigma are particularly salient to individuals with lived experience of poverty, and may therefore contribute to health inequalities. Methods: Five focus groups were conducted with 39 individuals with experience of living on low incomes in Scotland in order to explore their experiences and perceptions of poverty stigma. Results: Five main themes were identified, reflecting aspects of poverty stigma operating at various structural, public and individual levels: media representations of poverty; negative encounters with social security systems; perceived public attitudes regarding poverty in Scotland; lowered self-esteem and internalisation of negative attitudes, and; emotional responses to stigma. Conclusion: These dimensions of stigma potentially influence public health and health inequalities in Scotland, although future research will be necessary to quantify these and estimate their relationships with health outcomes.