World‘s Largest Study Unveils Link Between Facial Scarring And Mental Health

by Ella

In a groundbreaking study led by Professor Iain Whitaker and collaborators, the largest-ever investigation into facial scarring and mental health has revealed a significant correlation. The research, known as AFFECT (Assessing the burden of Facial scarring and associated mental health Conditions to identify patients at greatest risk), funded by The Scar Free Foundation and Health and Care Research Wales, sheds light on the psychological challenges faced by individuals with facial scars.


The study, recently published in the esteemed psychiatry journal BJPsychOpen, scrutinized data from Swansea University’s SAIL Databank, encompassing 179,079 individuals with facial scars. These records were meticulously matched based on socio-economic status, age of scarring onset, and gender to an equivalent number of individuals without facial scars. The study’s focal point was to discern the prevalence of anxiety and depression among these two groups.


Key findings from the AFFECT study include:


Individuals with facial scars, especially stemming from self-harm, assault, or traumatic injuries like burns, exhibit a higher likelihood of experiencing anxiety and depression.


Those with facial scars resulting from congenital conditions are less prone to being treated for anxiety and depression.

Women, individuals with a history of poor mental health, and those undergoing deprivation are at an elevated risk of mental health issues related to facial scarring.

Professor Iain Whitaker, the Lead Investigator on the AFFECT Study and a faculty member at Swansea University’s Medical School, emphasized the importance of understanding the psychological impact of facial scars beyond the immediate physical effects. The study aims to prompt a more robust system of mental health support for individuals coping with facial scars.

Simon Weston, Lead Scar Free Ambassador, shared his personal journey with scars and highlighted the vital work of The Scar Free Foundation and Swansea University. He expressed the need for societal acceptance of people with visual differences, advocating for equality and understanding.

Dr. Jaco Nel, Scar Free Ambassador and sepsis survivor, emphasized the scarcity of psychological support for those with facial scarring, underscoring the study’s significance in showcasing the importance of comprehensive support throughout their journey.

Michael Bowdery, Head of Programmes at Health and Care Research Wales, applauded the collaboration with The Scar Free Foundation, emphasizing the broader research program’s potential to address the needs of individuals with facial differences.

The study not only underscores the profound impact of facial scarring on mental health but also sets the stage for future research initiatives aimed at providing holistic support and understanding for those living with facial scars.


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