International Psychogeriatrics

Research Article

Perceptions of self-stigma and its correlates among older adults with depression: a preliminary study

Perla Wernera1 c1, Ifat Stein-Shvachmana1 and Jeremia Heinika2

a1 Department of Gerontology, University of Haifa, Israel

a2 Margoletz Psychogeriatric Center, Ichilov Hospital and Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel


Background: Depression is common in old age and is often associated with stigma. However, to date, little is known about self-stigma (internalization of stigmatic beliefs) in depressed older people despite its importance and consequences. The aim of this study was to examine self-stigma and its correlates in depressed older people.

Methods: Phone interviews were conducted with 54 persons diagnosed with major depression (78% female, average age = 74) from a psychogeriatric clinic in the central area of Israel. Self-stigma was assessed using an adapted version of the Internalized Stigma of Mental Health (ISMI) scale. Symptoms of depression were assessed using the short form of the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS). Self-esteem was measured using Rosenberg's Self Esteem Scale. Information regarding sociodemographic and psychiatric health characteristics was also collected.

Results: Self-stigma was relatively moderate with 10% to 20% of the participants reporting self-stigma. Those who reported higher levels of self-stigma were younger than those who did not report it. Income and education were lower in persons who reported high levels of stigmatization. Persons who reported stigmatization scored higher on the GDS and reported lower self-esteem than those without stigmatization.

Conclusions: This study represents an effort to examine the correlates of self-stigma in depressed older people. Since self-stigma exists among older adults, further studies are required to extend this body of knowledge.

(Received March 16 2009)

(Revised May 07 2009)

(Revised May 13 2009)

(Accepted May 18 2009)

(Online publication July 09 2009)


c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: Perla Werner, Ph.D., Professor and Dean, Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, University of Haifa, Mt. Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel. Phone: +972-4-8249565; Fax: +972-4-8240573. Email: