News Patient Perspective Research Commentaries

Stigma and causal attribution – new research

Causal attributions and perceived stigma for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Doctors with M.E. Honorary Fellow, Professor Leonard Jason, continues his scholarship in the field of ME with his coauthorship of a newly published paper examining the role of stigma and its impact on health-related and social outcomes.

In addition to ME’s extremely low quality of life scores, the impact of stigma has an unusually great impact on patients. This affects both social and medical interactions and esteem.

Further education of health practitioners and the public about physiological causes of ME/CFS could improve the situation for patients. A widespread, evidence-based conception of ME/CFS as a physical condition could also increase the fit between illness perceptions by patients and their social environment, which in turn could reduce the negative consequences associated with ME/CFS.”


Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) is a chronic disease with the hallmark symptom of post-exertional malaise. Evidence for physiological causes is converging, however, currently no diagnostic test or biomarker is available. People with ME/CFS experience stigmatization, including the perception that the disease is psychosomatic. In a sample of 499 participants with self-diagnosed ME/CFS,we investigated perceived stigma as a pathway through which perceived others’ causal attributions relate to lower satisfaction with social roles and activities and functional status. Higher perceived attributions by others to controllable and unstable causes predicted lower health-related and social outcomes via higher perceived stigma.


Froehlich, L., Hattesohl, D.B.R., Cotler, J., Jason, L.A., Scheibenbogen, C., & Behrends, U. (in press). Causal attributions and perceived stigma for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Journal of Health Psychology. Published online July 9, 2021.

Prof. Leonard Jason

Honorary Fellow

Professor of Psychology, DePaul University, Chicago, Director, Center for Community Research Director, DePaul University Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Project