Sexual Harassment, Assault Tied to Women's Health Issues

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Sexual harassment and sexual assault among midlife women are associated with poorer physical and mental health.
Sexual harassment and sexual assault among midlife women are associated with poorer physical and mental health.

HealthDay News — Sexual harassment and sexual assault among midlife women are associated with poorer physical and mental health, according to a study published online Oct. 3 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Rebecca C. Thurston, Ph.D., from the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues examined the correlation of history of sexual harassment and sexual assault with blood pressure, mood, anxiety, and sleep among midlife women. A total of 304 nonsmoking women aged 40 to 60 years without cardiovascular disease participated in the study by undergoing physical measurements, medical history, and questionnaire psychosocial assessments.

The researchers found that 19 percent of participants reported a history of workplace sexual harassment and 22 percent reported a history of sexual assault. Among women not taking antihypertensives, sexual harassment was correlated with significantly increased odds of stage 1 or 2 hypertension (odds ratio, 2.36) as well as clinically poor sleep (odds ratio, 1.89) after adjustment for covariates. There was a correlation for sexual assault with significantly greater odds of clinically elevated depressive symptoms, clinically relevant anxiety, and clinically poor sleep after covariate adjustment (odds ratios, 2.86, 2.26, and 2.15, respectively).

"Efforts to improve women's health should target sexual harassment and assault prevention," the authors write.

One author consults for pharmaceutical and other companies.

Abstract/Full Text

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