Sex Work and Mental Health: A Study of Women in the Netherlands
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.
KeywordsProstitution Depression Post-traumatic stress Mental health Quality of life
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