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The lasting health effects of sexual assault

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Sexual assault and harassment continue to take a toll on victims’ physical and mental health well after the experience itself is over, according to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Why it matters: The direct health effects of sexual assault and harassment, including an increased risk of depression and anxiety, haven't gotten as much attention as their emotional and professional damage. But all of those consequences can feed and compound each other.

The details: In a study of 304 women, 19% said they had been sexually harassed at work, and 22% reported being a victim of sexual assault.

  • Women who had been the victims of sexual assault were three times more likely to show signs of clinical depression, compared to women who hadn’t been assaulted. They were twice as likely to have elevated anxiety.
  • Harassment, meanwhile, was tied to higher blood pressure.
  • Both groups of women reported much poorer sleep — which, like depression and high blood pressure, often contributes to other health problems.
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