Addressing perceived and enacted stigma in clinical settings is critical to ensuring the delivery of high-quality patient-centered care, reducing health disparities, and improving population health outcomes.

Data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System's (2012–2014) Reaction to Race module were analyzed by Dr. Henna Budhwani from UAB’s School of Public Health, along with Dr. Prabal De, to test the hypothesis that perceived stigma in health care settings would be associated with poorer physical and mental health. Poor health was measured by (1) the number of days the respondent was physically or mentally ill over the past month and (2) depressive disorder diagnosis.

Effects of stigma on physical and mental health were significant. Perceived stigma was associated with additional poor physical health days and more days of poor mental health. Moreover, perceived stigma in health care settings was associated with higher odds of reporting a depressive disorder. Among other findings, individuals who were married, younger, had higher income, had college degrees, and were employed reported significantly fewer poor physical and mental health days and had lower odds of self-reported depressive disorder.

Reducing stigma against people of color in health care settings (environments that should be pro-patient) must be a top priority for population health scholars and clinicians. Reducing perceived stigma in clinical settings may produce better mental and physical health outcomes in minority patients thereby reducing health disparities. In addition, fewer days lost to poor health could positively influence the health care system by decreasing utilization and may improve economic productivity through increasing days of good health.

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