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Internalized stigma and stigma-related isolation predict women’s psychological distress and physical health symptoms post-abortion

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posted on 2018-02-05, 09:56 authored by Aisling T. O'Donnell, Tara O'Carroll, Natasha Toole
Researchers have provided evidence that accessing abortion relates to anticipated, experienced, and internalized stigma. These aspects of stigma have previously been associated with increased psychological distress and physical health symptoms. However, there has been no research on how anticipation, perception, internalization, and stigma-related isolation are related to psychological distress and somatic (physical) symptoms. We examined this question in an online volunteer sample of women in Ireland (N = 155) who have had an abortion. Internalized stigma and stigma-related isolation significantly predicted higher levels of psychological distress, and internalized stigma also significantly predicted somatic symptoms. The direct effect of each type of stigma on somatic symptoms was mediated by psychological distress. Thus, to the extent that women had internalized greater stigma and isolated themselves, they also reported increased psychological distress, and this psychological distress predicted increased somatic symptoms. The relation between internalized stigma and somatic symptoms was also moderated by stigma-related isolation. Our findings complement and extend the existing literature on the relations between stigmatized identities, psychological distress, and physical health problems, particularly regarding women who have accessed abortion. They also indicate that those involved in policy-making and activism around reproductive rights should avoid inadvertently increasing the stigma surrounding abortion.

History

Publication

Psychology of Women Quarterly; 42 (2), pp. 220-234

Publisher

SAGE Publications

Note

peer-reviewed

Language

English

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