Survey results for

November/January: Impact of Skin Conditions

During late 2016, talkhealth carried out some patient research around the psychological impact of skin conditions. Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, acne and scarring affect large numbers of children and adults in the UK, causing both physical and psychological issues. talkhealth wanted to find out more about the impact of the emotional side of having a skin condition on day to day life, including issues around confidence and generally how those with a skin condition cope.

Nearly 700 people completed the survey, providing talkhealth with a robust range of interesting insights. Considering the severity of the skin condition participants are living with (whether it was very mild, mild, severe or very severe), most described their condition as mild (46%) or severe (38%). Almost half of those who completed the survey reported that their skin condition affected their face, and over half have been living with their skin conditions for more than 10 years. It is fair to assume, therefore, that these participants have long-term experience of both the physical and psychological impact of having a skin problem.

Whilst just under half of participants have been referred to a dermatologist, a staggering 90% have never spoken to a counsellor about the emotional impact, yet 28% are taking a prescribed medication for anxiety and depression because of their skin condition. Three quarters said their skin condition affected their confidence and over 80% said it made them feel unattractive; with over half of participants reporting their skin condition affects their face, these statistics are not surprising. What is surprising, however, is that most of the participants had never received any counselling despite telling talkhealth they suffer confidence issues, anxiety and depression.

When it comes to what participants wear, two-thirds said they avoid wearing certain clothes, such as t-shirts, shorts and short sleeves because they would feel self-conscious. Overall, participants were supported and treated by their GP or dermatologist for their physical symptoms, but were very much unsupported emotionally, with almost 50% feeling isolated socially and just as many fearing rejection from friends and partners as a direct result of how they look. Three-quarters also said their skin has affected their ability to be intimate (sexually) with a partner.

Continuing with how participants feel emotionally about their skin, 60% said they felt that others viewed them differently due to their physical appearance. Surprisingly, and sadly, 20% have experienced verbal abuse, and 4% physical abuse as a direct result of the way they look!

Participants told talkhealth:
“I have been bullied for my skin and also had a customer refused to be served by me because of my eczema. I have also been refused a job due to my eczema.”

“I hate myself. I go out as little as possible. Very rarely I get it to a level I feel I can go out without people looking at me and feeling very self-conscious.”

“Because it's on my face I am very conscious of it, and people do seem to notice/look at it when talking to me and I worry that they think it looks disgusting”.

“It is worse in winter when I am cold. My nose goes red and it is hard to conceal even with foundation. I feel self-conscious as people comment.”

“I feel ugly due to my rosacea as it highlights my nose which I was already conscious of. People often tell me I look really well as they think I have been sunbathing which I find distressing. They think they are cheering me up as I have a neurodegenerative disease but it just adds to my misery. I look pale in between flare ups and when I have the redness they see it as an opportunity to tell me I look well. It makes me very self -conscious and affects my confidence.”

When asked if they felt there was adequate supported from charities and other organisations, the majority (almost 60%) said no. Clearly there is more that charities and other organisations can do to improve the lives of those with skin problems.

talkhealth carried out extensive research in mid-2016 around the type of support patients want and need. With over 6,000 people taking part, the findings were revealing. 45% said they would welcome the opportunity to join a specific support programme to receive practical help.

Based on this particular research, talkhealth will be launching a number of Patient Support Programmes over the course of 2017/18 starting with a programme for those with rosacea.

The Patient Support Programmes programmes will be free for qualifying patients to join, offer help and support for a period of 6 months, with a range of information made available each week. If you are interested in finding out more about the talkhealth Patient Support Programmes, please email us.

If you're interested in a detailed analysis of the results for these surveys please contact us.