How Sexual Harassment at Workplace can Affect Health for Decades

Illnesses can include high blood pressure, poor quality sleep, anxiety, even depression

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The #MeToo and #NoMore movements across the world have raised public awareness of the sexual harassment women face at the workplace and show women’s determination to fight it. Still, many continue to experience such assaults and refuse to report them.

A September poll of over 4,000 people in the 18-30 age group, conducted by charity Young Women’s Trust that supports women in England and Wales who are on little or no pay, found that 15 per cent had experienced sexual harassment at work but did not report it for the fear of losing their job.

Health Concerns

Many say that time heals all wounds. But that’s not true. The impact of workplace sexual harassment or sexual assault can result in lingering health problems years after the experience, a new study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal says.

The study, “Association of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault With Midlife Women’s Mental and Physical Health”, set out to answer the following question: Do women with a history of sexual harassment or sexual assault have higher blood pressure, greater depression and anxiety, and poorer sleep than women without this history.

It found that women with a history of workplace sexual harassment had “significantly higher odds of hypertension and clinically poor sleep than women without this history, after adjusting for covariates”. Women with a history of sexual assault had significantly higher odds of clinically significant depressive symptoms, anxiety, and poor sleep than women without this history, after adjusting for covariates, it says.

Of the 304 women (in the age 40-60 age group) who were from the Pittsburgh area in the US, 19 per cent had experienced workplace sexual harassment, and 22 per cent, sexual assault. Ten per cent had experienced both. The study found that those who were sexually assaulted were three times more likely to suffer from symptoms of depression and two times more likely to have anxiety and poor sleep compared to those who didn’t experience sexual assault.

Those who were sexually harassed were twice as likely to have high blood pressure.

Young Women’s Trust chief executive Carole Easton OBE says, in the press release of the poll: “Sadly, even a hundred years after the first women gaining the power to vote, it’s still a rich man’s world. Young women continue to lack workplace power and spending power. 

 “If 2018 is to be a turning point for women’s equality and not just a footnote in history, then it’s clear that we need deeds, not just words. We need to be impatient for change: a lot has been achieved in the last 100 years but there’s still a long way to go.” 

Pooja Singh

Written By


A stickler for details, Pooja Singh likes telling people stories. She has previously worked with Mint-Hindustan Times, Down To Earth and Asian News International-Reuters.