It’s no secret that sexual harassment can result in depression and anxiety, but new research shows that the long-term health effects of sexual harassment on women are more pervasive than previously thought. It’s possible such harassment could take years off a woman’s life, as she becomes more likely to suffer a cardiovascular incident.
Two new papers published recently in the prestigious JAMA Internal Medicine investigated these effects, focusing on hypertension and sleep disorders. The former greatly increases the risks of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke, while the latter may increase the risk of immune disorders as well as cardiovascular disease.
A Female Public Health Crisis
According to researchers, between 40 and 75 percent of all women have experienced sexual harassment on the job, and 36 percent have experienced actual sexual assault. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, consisted of 304 non-smoking women between the ages of 40 and 60.
Via questionnaires, it was revealed that 19 percent of the women had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, while 22 percent had experienced sexual assault and another 10 percent had experienced both. The study showed that women who had experienced sexual harassment had a substantially higher systolic blood pressure – the first number, which measures pressure in the blood vessels as the heart beats – and somewhat higher diastolic blood pressure, which measures blood vessel pressure in between beats.
Such women also experienced significantly worse sleep quality than those who had not been sexually harassed. As for the sexual assault victims, they experienced more anxiety and depression, as well as poorer sleep quality than women who were not victims.
These results show that sexual harassment or assault may negatively affect female health not only in the period just after such incidents occur, but for years, even decades, down the road. Simply stated, this is a female public health crisis.
No Woman is Safe
Another article in JAMA Internal Medicine showed that no woman is safe from potential sexual harassment at work. The Prevalence of Sexual Harassment in Academic Medicine, conducted by researchers in Berlin, Germany, asked physicians working at a medical center to fill out a questionnaire.
A total of 737 doctors, divided among 448 women and 289 men, responded. Seventy percent of those responders reported some form of sexual harassment at work. Much of this harassment was not physical and consisted of degrading remarks. Women considered such derogatory comments harassment in far greater numbers than men, but both genders overwhelmingly agreed, by 89 percent, that any physical contact constituted harassment.
Virtually all the female responders identified harassers as male, while just 38 percent of the men identified harassers as other men. Women were more often harassed by supervisors than men, although both sexes reported colleagues as harassers at roughly the same percentage.
The study concludes that “strong institutional hierarchies” contributed to sexual harassment in both genders, and that addressing the problem meant changing the structure of organizational culture.
Sexual harassment victims deserve to be heard. If you have been a victim of harassment in the workplace, there is no need to quit your job. Instead, it is essential that you contact an experienced sexual harassment attorney to assess your legal situation, protect your job, stop the conduct, determine the financial compensation to which you may be entitled, and ensure the culprit will not harass again. Our experienced sexual harassment lawyers will offer a free, confidential consultation, so you have nothing to lose. Call us at 888.249.6944 or Connect Online.