Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Psychological Science (MSPS)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Lori Lange

Second Advisor

Dr. Curtis Phills

Department Chair

Dr. Lori Lange

College Dean

Dr. Kaveri Subrahmanyam


The complexity of chronic or unexplained conditions may lead to potential stigma for those suffering long-term symptoms as they do not follow the expected pattern of recovery following diagnosis and treatment. Experiencing such illness-related stigma has potential for leading to a belongingness identity of detachment with implications for health across physical, social, and psychological dimensions. This study aimed to examine the relationship between stigma, social connection, mental health, physical health, and social functioning in a group of 231 participants with ongoing symptoms of chronic illness through structural equation modeling. The fit indices all suggest that the model reasonably fits the data with greater stigma predicting poorer social connectedness, which in turn mediated quality of life across all areas of mental, social, and physical health. The pathway through social connection provided stronger results than the direct path for mental health and social functioning suggesting that social connectedness has a greater influence on these factors than stigma alone. Findings situate social connectedness as a psychosocial factor that is inversely associated with illness-related stigma and support theoretical predictions that this aspect of belongingness predicts all aspects of physical, social and mental health. Further theoretical development on stigma within the realm of health psychology may prove advantageous to increasing knowledge and producing more efficacious interventions.