CUSTOM DERMATOLOGY SEARCH:
Psychosocial Impact of Acne Vulgaris: Evaluating the Evidence
The interaction of acne and psychosocial issues is complex and, in adolescence, can be associated with developmental issues of body image, socialization and sexuality. Previous studies on the psychosocial impact of acne have documented dissatisfaction with appearance, embarrassment, self-consciousness, and lack of self-confidence in acne patients. Social dysfunction has also been observed, including concerns about social interactions with the opposite gender, appearances in public, interaction with strangers, and reduced employment opportunities.
The development of psychometric scales to measure the impact of disease on abstract concepts and the notion of Quality of Life (QoL) has facilitated greater understanding of the impact of acne on psychological well-being and socialization. This paper reviews the current evidence presented by some of these studies in evaluating the impact of acne on psychosocial health.
The majority of studies on the psychosocial impact of acne have been case reports and case-control surveys. Although case-control design studies are rapid to perform and relatively inexpensive, disadvantages include potential bias, inability to predict events of precedence, and to provide estimates on prevalence, incidence, or relative risk. The majority of these surveys are based on small samples with responses compared to historical controls or responses from other disease categories (see Table 1).
Table 1: Case-control surveys: psychosocial effects of acne vulgaris
Psychological abnormalities include self-reported depression and anxiety, embarrassment, social inhibition, and psychosomatic symptoms including pain and discomfort. Of particular note is that clinically important depression and anxiety were reported in 18% and 44% of acne patients, respectively.1 Furthermore, 6% of acne patients in one study reported active suicidal ideation.2
Patients with acne had greater impairment in mental health scores compared with those with asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, back pain, arthritis, or coronary artery disease.3 Furthermore, acne patients reported higher depression and anxiety scores when compared to psoriasis patients and those attending oncology or general dermatology clinics.1,2
Longitudinal evaluation of psychometric outcomes has demonstrated that effective treatment of acne was accompanied by improvement in self-esteem, affect, obsessive-compulsiveness, shame, embarrassment, body image, social assertiveness, and self-confidence. The majority of these patients were treated with oral isotretinoin (71%).1,4-7
Unemployment in acne patients was evaluated in 625 patients aged 18-30 years in Leeds, England. Controls were randomly selected patients from general practitioner records and matched for age and gender. This study revealed that unemployment levels were significantly higher among acne patients of both genders compared to controls (16% vs. 9% in males; 14% vs. 9% in females; p<0.001). However, social status, academic background, and intelligence were not included in the analysis.10
Cross-sectional Population Surveys
Cross-sectional studies are more rapid and less expensive to conduct than cohort studies. They are useful for controlling subject selection and controlling measurements, and can yield prevalence data. A particular limitation is the difficulty of establishing causal relationships or sequencing of events. There are a limited number of these studies in the literature evaluating the association of acne and psychological disturbances in the context of the general population (see Table 2).
Table 2: Cross-sectional surveys: psychosocial effects of acne vulgaris
A recent survey of 2,657 students from Turkey, aged 14-20 years, detected a prevalence of acne, anxiety and depression of 23%, 25%, and 13% respectively. In addition, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale (HAD), was administered to 308 acne patients whose responses were compared to responses of the same number of gender-matched controls. No differences were detected in the subscale scores for anxiety or depression in acne versus control subjects. Limitations of this scale include uncertain sensitivity and responsiveness in detecting psychological abnormalities in a relatively young outpatient population, and specificity in determining attributability of anxiety and depression to acne.11
In a survey of 317 students aged 14-16 from England, an age-appropriate, validated scale, i.e., the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), was used to assess psychological health. Subjects with acne were twice as likely to score in the borderline or abnormal range of the SDQ compared to unaffected students. Furthermore, the presence of acne was associated with higher levels of emotional and behavioral difficulties.12
While a prospective longitudinal cohort study is the most powerful trial design for evaluating incidence and investigating potential causes of psychosocial dysfunction in acne patients, such a survey has not been performed. A cohort of school children followed from pre-adolescence to early adulthood would be of particular value in determining the sequence of events in the complex interaction of acne and psychological changes of adolescence, and in providing estimates of incidence and relative risks of these outcomes. Such a survey may be a relatively inexpensive extension or addition to longitudinal studies on general health in the pediatric population.
Acne vulgaris is associated with excess psychosocial morbidity, which can be reduced by effective treatment. Furthermore, acne is associated with a greater psychological burden than a variety of other disparate chronic disorders. The causal inference provided by current literature between acne and psychosocial disability requires validation by a longitudinal cohort evaluation.
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Last modified: Thursday, 20-Feb-2014 18:00:09 MST