Are young people more positive about stammering?

Three women and two men sitting and posing for a selfie photo from a phone held by one of the women
Orla, Babszie, Bhupinder, Tayo & Steven

A recent STAMMA survey highlights some interesting findings on what people think of their stammer, not least in younger generations. 

Earlier in March, we commissioned a survey of over 6,000 adults of which 107 self-identified as people who stammer1.Those individuals then answered questions about their speech.

With the survey, we wanted to find out the experiences of people who stammer who don't necessarily have contact with the broader stammering community. We also wanted to dig a little deeper than we have in previous public surveys and start exploring whether factors such as age and gender are related to any of those experiences. 

(Note: 107 respondents who stammer might not seem like a lot, but in the world of stammering research that's not a bad figure. Especially as it was a sample representing the wider public and not just the STAMMA membership.)

We asked lots of questions and will be sharing some of the responses in a series of articles. However, aware that most surveys about stammering have a built-in assumption that stammering brings challenges, we wanted to explore a broader range of experiences. For this reason, we included a question about positivity.

Positivity and stammering

In one part of our survey, we explored experiences of stammering. This included asking an open question: 'What positives has stammering brought to your life?'. This gave people the opportunity to write whatever they wished, without feeling restricted by multiple choice options. It also meant we weren't making assumptions by offering options.

The majority (64%) suggested nothing positive common responses were 'nothing' or 'none'.

A bar chart

However, among the 36% who cited positives, examples included:

  • "People listen more as they stop talking."
  • "I have been able to spread awareness." 
  • "Being open minded with other people." 
  • "It has taught me to accept myself." 
  • "I'm a lot more patient with other people when speaking."
  • "People give me more attention whilst I am speaking."

Alongside the positive comments…

Focusing on those 36% who said stammering has brought some positives to their life, many also made negative comments about stammering in other questions. Notably, when asked to describe what happens when stammering, comments included: 

  • "I get really stressed."
  • "I get anxious."
  • "I panic."
  • "I get embarrassed."
  • "I get a bit angry."

We wondered whether there might be any pattern to those respondents who identified positives. Was there any relationship with gender? Was there a difference between those whose stammer is more or less obvious to others?

It turned out that the clearest difference was associated with age.

Age and positivity

This was the most striking result: younger age groups appeared far more positive than older age groups.

By far the least likely group to cite positives was those aged over 35 — only 17% did so. Whereas under 35s were the group most likely to cite positives. 

  • 17% of those aged 35+ cited some positives to their lives.
  • 44% of those aged under 35 cited some positives to their lives.

This is a fascinating, thought-provoking result! Of course, there are reasons for caution in any interpretation. It's likely that there is no single explanation of the result. But what could it suggest?  

Might it reflect a shift in attitudes as people age? Do some people become less positive about stammering over their lives? Maybe realisation that their stammer won't disappear explains the lack of positives identified.

Wouldn't it be a brilliant outcome if attitudes to stammering really are changing?

Alternatively, could it partly reflect changing attitudes to stammering? Maybe younger people have been exposed to more positive messaging about stammering. Older people may have experienced a more negative climate surrounding their speech as they grew up, which continues to affect their views.

This could be closely tied to wider societal attitudes to disabilities/differences. Recent years have seen greater positivity and opportunities associated with disabilities/differences, including greater visibility of such information in the social media and internet world. Wouldn't it be a brilliant outcome if attitudes to stammering really are changing?

Gender difference and positivity

In our survey, females were slightly more likely to cite positives than males:

  • 39% of females who stammer said stammering has brought positives to their lives.
  • 34% of males who stammer said stammering has brought positives to their lives.

This difference is quite modest. We wondered whether it reflects similarities or differences in stammering experience and gender.   

Visibility of stammering and positivity 

There was a slight difference in positivity depending on how 'obvious' the person's stammering was to others2. For example:

  • 40% of those with a less obvious stammer cited some positives to stammering.
  • 33% of those with a more obvious stammer cited some positives to stammering.

The difference between the two groups is quite small, but it's interesting to speculate whether it reflects particular experiences. For example, perhaps people who stammer less and feel more in control of their speech have more moments when they experience freedom to speak. We'd love to hear your suggestions!

However, as with gender, the difference is modest. 

What next?

These are thought-provoking results about positivity and negativity which we'd love to explore further. It's worth underlining that we're cautious about putting too much weight on the findings, at least without further supporting evidence.

There are other angles in the survey which we'll discuss in future articles. For example, about the different definitions people gave of stammering, how people describe their experiences and how some people choose to hide their stammer.


1 Online survey conducted by polling company Peekator in March 2024. A national sample of 6,146 UK adults, of which 107 self-identified as stammering. 

An unusual feature of the survey is that the group of 107 people who stammer has an almost equal gender split — whereas we know a majority of those who stammer are male. This arose because the majority (66%) of the 6,146 sample was female. Because of this imbalance, we are not using the survey to imply that 1.7% (107 out of 6,146) of adults stammer.

The results are interesting and will hopefully prompt discussion and further research. We are, however, mindful it's a one-off sample of 107, and the results can't be taken as representative, at least without further supporting evidence.

2 We estimated a roughly equal split in the 107 people who stammer between those whose stammer was more or less obvious. This was based on answers to the question: 'How many people in your life know that you stammer/stutter?'. 51% picked an option from: 'Everyone/Most people', who we assumed had an obvious stammer. 49% picked an option from: 'No-one/Only a few/Some people', who we assumed had a less obvious stammer.

Two women in running outfits holding flags and looking at the camera
Tayo & Bhupinder
A speaker on stage at STAMMAFest 2023

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