COVID-19-related stigma among infected people in Sweden; psychometric properties and levels of stigma in two cohorts as measured by a COVID-19 stigma scale.

Reinius M, Svedhem V, Bruchfeld J, Holmstr├Âm Larm H, Nygren-Bonnier M, Eriksson LE

PLoS One 18 (6) e0287341 [2023-06-21; online 2023-06-21]

Epidemics have historically been accompanied by stigma and discrimination. Disease-related stigma has often been shown to have severe consequences for physical, mental and social wellbeing and lead to barriers to diagnosis, treatment and prevention. The aims of this study were to investigate if a HIV-related stigma measure could be adapted and valid and reliable to measure COVID-19-related stigma, and also to investigate levels of self-reported stigma and related factors among people in Sweden with experience of COVID-19 and compare levels of COVID-19-related stigma versus HIV-related stigma among persons living with HIV who had experienced a COVID-19 event. Cognitive interviews (n = 11) and cross-sectional surveys were made after the acute phase of the illness using a new 12-item COVID-19 Stigma Scale and the established 12-item HIV Stigma Scale in two cohorts (people who had experienced COVID-19 (n = 166/209, 79%) and people living with HIV who had experienced a COVID-19 event (n = 50/91, 55%). Psychometric analysis of the COVID-19 Stigma Scale was performed by calculating floor and ceiling effects, Cronbach's ╬▒ and exploratory factor analysis. Levels of COVID-19 stigma between groups were analysed using the Mann-Whitney U test. Levels of COVID-19 and HIV stigma among people living with HIV with a COVID-19 event were compared using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test. The COVID-19 cohort consisted of 88 (53%) men and 78 (47%) women, mean age 51 (19-80); 143 (87%) living in a higher and 22 (13%) in a lower income area. The HIV + COVID-19 cohort consisted of 34 (68%) men and 16 (32%) women, mean age 51 (26-79); 20 (40%) living in a higher and 30 (60%) in a lower income area. The cognitive interviews showed that the stigma items were easy to understand. Factor analysis suggested a four-factor solution accounting for 77% of the total variance. There were no cross loadings, but two items loaded on factors differing from the original scale. All subscales had acceptable internal consistency, showed high floor and no ceiling effects. There was no statistically significant difference between COVID-19 stigma scores between the two cohorts or between genders. People living in lower income areas reported more negative self-image and concerns about public attitudes related to COVID-19 than people in higher income areas (median score 3 vs 3 and 4 vs 3 on a scale from 3-12, Z = -1.980, p = 0.048 and Z = -2.023, p = 0.024, respectively). People from the HIV + COVID-19 cohort reported more HIV than COVID-19 stigma. The adapted 12-item COVID-19 Stigma Scale may be valid and reliable for measurement of COVID-19-related stigma. However, specific items may need to be rephrased or replaced to better correspond to the COVID-19 context. People who had experienced COVID-19 reported low levels of COVID-19-related stigma in general but people from lower income areas had higher levels of negative self-image and concerns about public attitudes related to COVID-19 than people from areas with higher income, which may call for targeted interventions. Although exhibiting more pronounced HIV stigma levels, people living with HIV who had experienced COVID-19 reported COVID-19-related stigma of the same low magnitude as their peers not living with HIV.

Category: Social Science & Humanities

Funder: VR

Type: Journal article

PubMed 37343027

DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0287341

Crossref 10.1371/journal.pone.0287341

pmc: PMC10284413
pii: PONE-D-22-35422


Publications 9.5.0