Sexual Harassment, Assault Negatively Impact Women’s Health

Women who are sexually harassed or assaulted face higher risks of poorer mental health and sleep quality as well as elevated blood pressure, researchers suggest 

The study authors, whose work was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, analyzed 304 healthy (no clinical cardiovascular disease), nonsmoking women aged between 40 and 60 years old (mean age, 54.05 years), of whom 19% (n = 58) were sexually harassed at work and 22% (n = 67) reported a history of sexual assault (n = 67). Ten percent of participants (n = 30) said they had been both harassed and assaulted.  

Considering covariates, women who were sexually harassed were more than twice as likely to have stage 1 or 2 hypertension (odds ratio [OR], 2.36; 95% CI, 1.10-5.06; P = 0.03); they were also more likely to have insomnia (OR, 1.89; 95% CI, 1.05-3.42; P = 0.03). 

Women who were sexually assaulted were more than twice as likely to have elevated depressive symptoms (OR, 2.86; 95% CI, 1.42-5.77; multivariable P = 0.003), anxiety (OR, 2.26; 95% CI, 1.26-4.06; multivariable P = 0.006), and poor sleep (OR, 2.15; 95% CI, 1.23-3.77; multivariable P = 0.007). 

The study authors concluded: “Future work should consider whether preventing or mitigating sexual harassment and sexual assault can improve women’s mental and cardiovascular health. Given the high prevalence of sexual harassment and assault, addressing these prevalent and potent social exposures may be critical to promoting health and preventing disease in women.” 

Achieving just outcomes: forensic evidence collection in emergency department sexual assault cases 

Source: JAMA Internal Medicine