A new Columbia University study has found that that people diagnosed with alcoholism are more than 60 percent less likely to seek treatment if they believe they would be stigmatized once their status is known.
Despite the existence of effective programs for treating alcohol dependencies and disorders, less than a quarter of people who are diagnosed actually seek treatment.
The researchers found that individuals with an alcohol use disorder who perceived negative stigma were 0.37 times less likely to seek treatment for their disorder compared to individuals with similarly serious alcohol disorders who did not perceive stigma.
In the general population, younger individuals perceived less stigma, and also were less likely to seek treatment for an alcohol disorder. Men perceived more stigmas compared to women.
However, the data also suggested that individuals with more severe alcohol disorders had a greater likelihood to seek treatment.
"People with alcohol disorders who perceive high levels of alcohol stigma may avoid entering treatment because it confirms their membership in a stigmatized group," said Katherine Keyes, of the Mailman School of Public Health Department Epidemiology.
"Greater attention to reducing the stigma of having an alcohol disorder is urgently needed so that more individuals access the effective systems of care available to treat these disabling conditions," added Keyes.
The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.