Sexual harassment does more than make victims frustrated or unhappy at work — it negatively affects their physical and mental health in myriad ways.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh studied the effects of sexual harassment on women between 40 and 60 years of age. They found some startling results that show how trauma can have long-term effects on the human body.
In particular, women who had endured sexual harassment at work were 9% more likely to have high blood pressure than women that hadn’t experienced similar issues. High blood pressure is associated with numerous health problems, including kidney disease, strokes and heart failure. The fact that sexual harassment may impact a woman’s blood pressure in midlife could put her at increased risk for a fatal health incident years down the road.
Women who had been sexually harassed at work suffered health problems in other ways, as well. For example, they were 14% more likely to have trouble sleeping, which can also add to problems like heart disease and diabetes. They were also 14% more likely to suffer from depression and 18% more likely to suffer from anxiety.
Researchers are quick to point out that mental health and physical health are deeply intertwined. Mental health issues can easily lead to increased disability or an early physical decline for the victims of sexual harassment.
Ultimately, this kind of information can help the victims of sexual harassment recover their health because they now know what issues might be linked to their trauma. By taking a proactive approach toward managing their mental and physical health — participating in self-care as much as possible — they may be able to mitigate the long-term effects of their trauma.
It also gives new power to victims who want to pursue a sexual harassment claim. Research like this can help a jury better understand the real consequences of sexual harassment in the workplace for victims.