Persistent somatic symptom related stigmatisation by healthcare professionals: A systematic review of questionnaire measurement instruments

B. Mcghie-fraser*, P. Lucassen, A. Ballering, I. Abma, E. Brouwers, S. Van Dulmen, T. Olde Hartman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
61 Downloads (Pure)


Patients with persistent somatic symptoms (PSS) experience stigmatising attitudes and behaviours by healthcare professionals. While previous research has focussed on individual manifestations of PSS related stigma, less is known about sound ways to measure stigmatisation by healthcare professionals towards patients with PSS. This review aims to assess the quality of questionnaire measurement instruments and make recommendations about their use.

A systematic review using six databases (PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Open Grey and EThOS). The search strategy combined three search strings related to healthcare professionals, PSS and stigma. Additional publications were identified by searching bibliographies. Three authors independently extracted the data. Data analysis and synthesis followed COSMIN methodology for reviews of outcome measurement instruments.

We identified 90 publications that met the inclusion criteria using 62 questionnaire measurement instruments. Stereotypes were explored in 92% of instruments, prejudices in 52% of instruments, and discrimination in 19% of instruments. The development process of the instruments was not rated higher than doubtful. Construct validity, structural validity, internal consistency and reliability were the most commonly investigated measurement properties. Evidence around content validity was inconsistent or indeterminate.

No instrument provided acceptable evidence on all measurement properties. Many instruments were developed for use within a single publication, with little evidence of their development or establishment of content validity. This is problematic because stigma instruments should reflect the challenges that healthcare professionals face when working with patients with PSS. They should also reflect the experiences that patients with PSS have widely reported during clinical encounters.
Original languageEnglish
Article number111161
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Discrimination
  • Measurement instrument
  • Measurement properties
  • Persistent somatic symptoms
  • Prejudice
  • Questionnaire
  • Stereotype
  • Stigma


Dive into the research topics of 'Persistent somatic symptom related stigmatisation by healthcare professionals: A systematic review of questionnaire measurement instruments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this