Advertisement

Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 6, pp 1843–1856 | Cite as

Sex Work and Mental Health: A Study of Women in the Netherlands

  • Elizabeth J. Krumrei-MancusoEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

This study examined how characteristics of prostitution and quality-of-life factors related to symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress among 88 women engaged in prostitution in the Netherlands. Numerous factors were associated with elevated mental health concerns, including the experience of violence in prostitution, engaging in street prostitution, being motivated to engage in prostitution for financial reasons, having less confidence in one’s ability to find alternative work, desiring to leave prostitution, and sense of self-transcendence. In contrast, focusing on achievement, having a sense of fair treatment from others and society, and self-acceptance were associated with better mental health outcomes. Finally, mediation analyses indicated that post-traumatic stress associated with engaging in prostitution against one’s deeper desire to exit prostitution was, in part, the result of a lack of self-acceptance. The analyses controlled for relevant demographic factors, including age and level of education. The effect sizes for each of the findings ranged from medium to large. Implications for mental health care and public policy are included.

Keywords

Prostitution Depression Post-traumatic stress Mental health Quality of life 

References

  1. Andresen, E. M., Malmgren, J. A., Carter, W. B., & Patrick, D. L. (1994). Screening for depression in well-older adults: Evaluation of a short form of CES-D (Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale). American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 10, 77–84.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Barry, K. (1995). The prostitution of sexuality. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Beekman, A. T. F., van Limbeek, J., Deeg, D. J. H., Wouters, L., & van Tilburg, W. (1994). Een screeningsinstrument voor depressive bij ouderen in de algemene bevolking: De bruikbaarheid van de Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). Tijdschrift voor Gerontologie en Geriatrie, 25, 95–103.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Burnette, M. L., Lucas, E., Ilgen, M., Frayne, S. M., Mayo, J., & Weitlauf, J. C. (2008). Prevalence and health correlates of prostitution among patients entering treatment for substance use disorders. Archives of General Psychiatry, 65, 337–344. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.65.3.337.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Choi, H., Klein, C., Shin, M., & Lee, H. (2009). Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and disorders of extreme stress (DESNOS) symptoms following prostitution and childhood abuse. Violence Against Women, 15, 933–951. doi: 10.1177/1077801209335493.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Chudakov, B., Ilan, K., Belmaker, R. H., & Cwikel, J. (2002). The motivation and mental health of sex workers. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 28, 305–316. doi: 10.1080/00926230290001439.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Comte, J. (2014). Decriminalization of sex work: Feminist discourses in light of research. Sexuality & Culture, 18, 196–217. doi: 10.1007/s12119013-9174-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (2012). Dutch Policy on Prostitution (AVT12/BZ106006). The Hague: Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Google Scholar
  9. El-Bassel, N., Schilling, R. F., Irwin, K. L., Faruque, S., Gilbert, L., Von Bargen, J., … Edlin, B. R. (1997). Sex trading and psychological distress among women recruited from the streets of Harlem. American Journal of Public Health, 87, 66––70. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.87.1.66.
  10. Eller, L., & Mahat, G. (2003). Psychological factors in Nepali former commercial sex workers with HIV. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 35, 53–60. doi: 10.1111/j.15475069.2003.00053.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Farley, M. (2006). Prostitution, trafficking, and cultural amnesia: What we must not know in order to keep the business of sexual exploitation running smoothly. Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, 18, 101–136.Google Scholar
  12. Farley, M., Baral, I., Kiremire, M., & Sezgin, U. (1998). Prostitution in five countries: Violence and post-traumatic stress disorder. Feminism & Psychology, 8, 405–426. doi: 10.1177/0959353598084002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Farley, M., & Barkan, H. (1998). Prostitution, violence, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Women and Health, 27, 37–49. doi: 10.1300/J013v27n03_03.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Farley, M., Cotton, A., Lynne, J., Zumbeck, S., Spiwak, F., Reyes, M. E., … Sezgin, U. (2003). Prostitution and trafficking in nine countries: An update on violence and posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Trauma Practice, 2, 33–74.Google Scholar
  15. Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  16. Hong, Y., Fang, X., Li, X., Liu, Y., Li, M., & Tai-Seale, T. (2010). Self-perceived stigma, depressive symptoms, and suicidal behaviors among female sex workers in China. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 21, 29–34. doi: 10.1177/1043659609349063.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Jaarsma, T. A., Pool, G., Ranchor, A. V., & Sanderman, R. (2007). The concept and measurement of meaning in life in Dutch cancer patients. Psycho-oncology, 16, 241–248.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Krumrei, E. J., & Fitzgerald, K. (2013, August). The psychological correlates of engaging in prostitution. Poster presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, Honolulu, HI.Google Scholar
  19. MacKinnon, D. P., Fairchild, A. J., & Fritz, M. S. (2007). Mediation analysis. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 593–614. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.58.110405.085542.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  20. McCarthy, B., Benoit, C., & Jansson, M. (2014). Sex work: A comparative study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 1379–1390. doi: 10.1007/s10508-014-0281-7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. McDonald, M. J., Wong, P. T. P., & Gingras, D. T. (2012). Meaning-in-life measures and development of a brief version of the personal meaning profile. In P. T. P. Wong (Ed.), The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (Vol. 2, pp. 357–382). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Preacher, K. J., & Kelley, K. (2011). Effect size measures for mediation models: Quantitative strategies for communicating indirect effects. Psychological Methods, 16, 93–115. doi: 10.1037/a0022658.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Prostitution: A personal choice. (2014, August 9). The Economist, 412, 9.Google Scholar
  24. Prostitution and the internet: More bang for your buck. (2014, August 9). The Economist, 412, 16.Google Scholar
  25. Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Risser, J. H., Timpson, S. C., McCurdy, S. A., Ross, M. W., & Williams, M. L. (2006). Psychological correlates of trading sex for money among African American crack cocaine smokers. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 32, 645–653.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Rössler, W. W., Koch, U. U., Lauber, C. C., Hass, A. K., Altwegg, M. M., Ajdacic-Gross, V. V., & Landolt, K. K. (2010). The mental health of female sex workers. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 122, 143–152. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0447.2009.01533.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Roxburgh, A., Degenhardt, L., & Copeland, J. (2006). Posttraumatic stress disorder among female street-based sex workers in the greater Sydney area, Australia. BMC Psychiatry, 6, 1. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-6-24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Simmons, M. (1998). Theorizing prostitution: The question of agency. Sexuality and Culture, 2, 125–148.Google Scholar
  30. Suresh, G., Furr, L., & Srikrishnan, A. (2009). An assessment of the mental health of street based sex workers in Chennai, India. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 25, 186–201. doi: 10.1177/1043986209333590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Tsutsumi, A., Izutsu, T., Poudyal, A. K., Kato, S., & Marui, E. (2008). Mental health of female survivors of human trafficking in Nepal. Social Science and Medicine, 66, 1841–1847. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.12.025.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Ulibarri, M. D., Semple, S. J., Rao, S., Strathdee, S. A., Fraga-Vallejo, M. A., Bucardo, J., … Patterson, T. L. (2009). History of abuse and psychological distress symptoms among female sex workers in two Mexico–U.S. border cities. Violence and Victims, 24, 399–413. doi: 10.1891/0886-6708.24.3.399.
  33. van der Ploeg, E., Mooren, T. M., Kleber, R. J., van der Velden, P. G., & Brom, D. (2004). Construct validation of the Dutch version of the Impact of Event Scale. Psychological Assessment, 16, 16–26. doi: 10.1037/1040-3590.16.1.16.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Vanwesenbeeck, I., de Graaf, R., van Zessen, G., Straver, C. J., & Visser, J. H. (1993). Risky life, risky business? Aidsrisico van prostitutes in het light van geweldervaringen en welzijn. Gedrag & Gezondheid: Tijdschrift voor Psychologie en Gezondheid, 21, 219–226.Google Scholar
  35. Weiss, D. S. (2004). The Impact of Event Scale-Revised. In J. P. Wilson, T. M. Keane, J. P. Wilson, & T. M. Keane (Eds.), Assessing psychological trauma and PTSD (2nd ed., pp. 168–189). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  36. Weiss, D. S., & Marmar, C. R. (1997). The Impact of Event Scale-Revised. In J. P. Wilson & T. M. Keane (Eds.), Assessing psychological trauma and PTSD: A practitioner’s handbook (pp. 399–411). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social Science Division, Department of PsychologyPepperdine UniversityMalibuUSA

Personalised recommendations