Researchers at the Cicely Saunders Institute and department of psychology at King’s College London have reviewed recent studies to highlight latest advances and ongoing research gaps in this area.

Man sitting by trees looking at view

This literature review highlights increasing qualitative evidence of how stigma related to chronic lung disease can increase feelings of guilt and shame, and can lead people to conceal their illness, avoid others, and sometimes delay seeking support. As people with chronic lung disease become more socially isolated, new quantitative evidence suggests this may coincide with less self-management support, and lower physical function and activity. Both stigma and social isolation, alongside troublesome symptoms like breathlessness, can also contribute to loneliness. People with chronic lung disease describe how loneliness can negatively affect their quality of life and health behaviours, and act as a pathway towards depression.

Despite these wide-ranging impacts of stigma, social isolation, and loneliness, the authors noted that there are still few studies that specifically address social dimensions of living with chronic lung disease.


We know from work with other populations that stigma, social isolation, and loneliness can all contribute towards additional morbidity and mortality: they are highly intertwined with psychological and physical health.

We need dedicated, rigorous research to understand the complexities of these social dimensions in the context of chronic lung disease, to help us tackle societal stigma and support people to stay connected with their communities.

Dr Lisa Jane Brighton, ESRC postdoctoral fellow, King’s College London

Read the full article:  Social dimensions of chronic respiratory disease: stigma, isolation, and loneliness

If you have questions or are interested in ongoing work in this area, please contact Dr Lisa Jane Brighton at

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