Patients With Vitiligo Have Increased Mental Health Burden

sad girl with vitiligo bowing her head
sad girl with vitiligo bowing her head
The effect of vitiligo on the quality of life and mental health of patients with vitiligo is examined.

The following article is a part of conference coverage from the 2022 American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting , held live from March 25 through March 29 in Boston, Massachusetts. The team at Dermatology Advisor will be reporting on the latest news and research conducted by leading experts in dermatology. Check back for more from the 2022 AAD Annual Meeting .


Vitiligo affects patients’ daily lives, emotional well-being, and careers, according to research presented at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), held from March 25 to 29, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Investigators reported results from the population-based Vitiligo and Life Impact Among International Communities (VALIANT) study, which aimed to assess the burden of vitiligo on patients’ quality of life in 17 countries. The current findings are from patients in the United States.

Adult patients (aged ≥18 years) diagnosed with vitiligo by a health care professional were recruited with an online survey.

Quality of life was assessed with use of the Vitiligo Impact Patient scale (VIPs), and symptoms consistent with depression were screened with the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). Vitiligo was assessed with the Self-Assessment Vitiligo Extent Score tool.

A total of 95,623 individuals were invited to participate in the US survey, of whom 637 (0.7%) completed it and 608 (0.6%) were included. Those who were included had a median age of 36 (range, 18-83) years, 57.9% were men, and 91.4% were White. Most patients had Fitzpatrick skin phototypes I to III (71.1%).

More than half (53.5%) of the participants responded that managing their vitiligo on a daily basis was burdensome, and 55.8% reported that “life would be very different without vitiligo,” according to the VIPs. The impact rating of the VIPs suggested that patients with darker skin had significantly more burden vs those with fairer skin types (Fitzpatrick phototypes IV-VI vs I-III: mean, 32.5/60 vs 28.2/60; P < .05).

Participants reported that vitiligo frequently affected how they dressed (56.7%), going to social activities (beach/pool, 52.3%; parties/events, 51.2%), and making career choices (51.3%). They also stated that they missed personal obligations, including work, for vitiligo treatments (60.0%) or owing to disease-related anxiety (47.0%).

About half of patients (52.3%) reported that they were diagnosed with a mental health condition by a medical professional, with anxiety (24.7%) and depression (20.1%) the most common diagnoses. The PHQ-9 depression screener indicated that 77.6% of patients had symptoms consistent with depression.

A majority (60.5%) of patients were told by a physician that their vitiligo could not be cured or treated. Although most (69.6%) participants are hopeful that new treatments will help them eventually, many stated that they had little desire to treat their vitiligo (43.4%) or had given up trying to find an effective treatment (41.0%).

The investigators noted that their study is limited by selection bias associated with its online nature and that possible errors in measurement related to patient-reported outcomes may have occurred.

“These findings highlight an unmet need in understanding the quality-of-life burden among patients living with vitiligo,” the researchers stated. “Patients alter their behaviors, express clear discontent, and have symptoms consistent with depression, which may be undiagnosed.”

Disclosure: This study was funded by Incyte Corporation. Some of the study authors declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of disclosures.


Bibeau K, Gardner J, Lindley A, et al. The mental health and psychosocial burden among patients living with vitiligo in the United States: findings from the global VALIANT study. Presented at: the 2022 AAD Annual Meeting; March 25-29, 2022. Abstract/Poster 34630.

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