Stigma as a Barrier to Treatment and Adoption of Innovation
Diseases such as mental illnesses, HIV, or certain cancer types carry a stigma that may deter patients from seeking treatment and, in turn, hinder the diffusion of innovative therapies. We investigate the link between social stigma as a barrier to access treatment and the adoption of innovation using the population of patients diagnosed with advanced lung cancer in Ontario (Canada) over the last decade: among all cancers, lung cancer suffers most from stigma because of its association with smoking behavior. Thanks to the rich information on patients at the geographic level, we are able to incorporate social stigma in a model of patient's utility for pursuing treatment. We find that patients face significant stigma acting as a barrier to treatment participation, which in turn slows down the adoption of innovative lung cancer treatment. Removing social stigma would increase the use of innovative treatment by 4%, with benefits in survival outweighing the additional treatment costs.