Sexual harassment is harmful to health

Harassment early in one's career heightened depressive symptoms for many years afterward

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Sexual harassment in the workplace has a real and sustained impact on health, according to the National Institutes of Health.

This sort of harassment induces depression in both women and men, even after controlling for past depression, harassment, or other workplace stressors. And harassment early in one's career has long-term effects, associated with heightened depressive symptoms nearly ten years later.

Harassed workers feel annoyed, angry, and conflicted, which often lead to self-blame and self-doubt. The stress literature has long noted the lasting psychological impact of stressful circumstances, especially when stressors are chronic, unpredictable, or threatening to one’s identity or life goals. Similar patterns were found among targets of sexual harassment. Harassment may also lead to stress in other parts of life, such as family conflict.

The effects on women are more likely to manifest as depression, while the effects on men are more likely to manifest as substance abuse.

Research on the mental health effects of sexual harassment were once criticized as “junk science." But a growing body of high-quality research has consistently shown negative effects of workplace harassment on health.

According to data complied by Equal Rights Advocates, a women’s law center in the U.S., 90 to 95 percent of sexually harassed women suffer from some debilitating stress reaction, including anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep disorders, weight loss or gain, nausea, lowered self-esteem and sexual dysfunction. In addition, victims of sexual harassment lose $4.4 million dollars in wages and 973,000 hours in unpaid leave each year in the United States.

Source: National Institutes of Health:

Examples of sexual harassment

Sexual innuendoes, comments or bantering
Intrusive, sexually explicit questions
Pressure, demands or requests
Sexually explicit correspondence: emails, texts, calls or notes.
Display of offensive materials: sexually explicit or with graphic content
Unwanted physical or sexual advances
Threats, bribes, quid pro quo or stalking
Source: University of Washington:

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  • Jan 19, 2018


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