20 Stigma towards workers diagnosed with occupational diseases

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Abstract

Introduction

Stigma has been defined as ‘the situation of the individual who is disqualified from full social acceptance or social ‘disgrace’ arising within social relations’ or biassed acts or behaviours. Stigma related to chronic health conditions have been known for a long time. Especially, internal and external (perceived and experienced) stigmatisation have been described among the patients with communicable diseases. Despite a growing awareness of chronic diseases, there is not yet enough research about patients with occupational diseases (OD) with regards to stigmatisation. This research aimed to investigate the scope and types of stigmatisation among OD patients in an outpatients clinic.

Methods

This is a qualitative research. Semi-structured in-depth interviews conducted by two interviewers. 13 patients who diagnosed OD between November 2013-February 2016 recruited to the study. The interviews conducted with tape-recorded accompanied by note-taking. The tape records resolved and evaluated by content analysis methods.

Result

In our study, we found that at least one theme of internal or external stigmatisation was found in all employees after OD diagnosis. In particular, employees who are symptomatic have been shown to be embarrassed by the complaints and distracted from their social environment due to their illness, and their illnesses are considered as communicable diseases. It was seen that patients were tended to hide their diseases because of the fear of job loss and thinking they were being exposed to discrimination in the workplace.

Discussion

After OD diagnosis, external stigmatisation is an important and prominent issue. Ensuring job security of the workers with OD and keeping them in working life (return to work and rehabilitation) should be prioritised to prevent stigmatisation. There is a need for investigations to explore the prevalence and causes of the stigmatisation in the workplaces due to chronic diseases including occupational diseases.

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