Sunday 28 December 2014

Male victims of child sexual abuse are twice as likely to be out of work due to illness

Published 15/08/2014 | 02:30

Men who have been sexually abused in childhood are twice as likely to be out of work due to sickness and disability, a major ESRI study reveals.

It is the first research into the economic impact of abuse on the lives of adult survivors and confirms the knock-on effects for household income are "real and substantial".

The impact of child sexual abuse on women's employment was found to be much smaller and not statistically significant - but this may be due to fact that it was older age groups, who would have had lower workforce participation, who were the focus of research.

The findings are revealed in a new joint study by the ESRI and Trinity College which drew on data from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), involving 8,500 people over 50 who are living in Ireland.

The people involved suffered the abuse more than three decades earlier but its lasting impact is now affecting them financially.

They were interviewed between 2009 and 2011 about a wide range of issues such as income, wealth, job status and health. The analysis in the unique study may have particular use in assessing the compensation due to victims who have been abused.

ESRI researcher, Prof Alan Barrett said: "Through a self-reported questionnaire, they were also asked questions about sexual abuse suffered before the age of 18.

"The survey recorded a rate of abuse of 5.6pc in men and 6.7pc in women but this may be an underestimate given that people are reluctant to report the issue."

The results showed:

* 17pc of men who were abused were not working as a result of being sick or permanently disabled. This compared to 8pc for those who were not abused.

* 14pc of female survivors did not have job for the same reason - compared to 6pc among those who had not been abused.

The report pointed out that it is known from other research that abuse is associated with depression and that it is linked to breaks in labour force participation.

"We used statistical methods to disentangle possible links between abuse, sickness, disability and depression," it adds.

For men, the results suggest that survivors are three times more likely to be sick and disabled compared to other men, even when accounting for the impact of psychological difficulties.

The findings on household incomes showed they were 34pc lower for men who were abused in childhood. They were also twice as likely to be living alone compared to other men who were not abused.

The authors say the results highlighted the very long-term effects in terms of labour force participation and incomes.

Anxiety

"Our analysis was based on people aged 50 and over and the abuse occurred before they were aged 18," they said.

"Hence, it has been at least 32 years since the abuse was experienced.

"A labour force disadvantage among the victims is observed even when we control for depression and anxiety.

"This suggests that the impacts of childhood abuse are complex and multifaceted.

"It is more difficult to identify a link between childhood abuse and working life for women because of the particular age group," they said.

As economists, the authors were able to shed light on the job prospects of survivors but were "not qualified to say much more."

However, they say "one implication of these results arises in the context of compensation for survivors. The results here provide a quantification of the economic impacts on individuals of having experienced child sexual abuse."

While compensation should cover factors others than economic,it "seems that the economic impacts are real and substantial," they add.

The research is among the first of its kind untaken internationally and is important both in Ireland and abroad.

Previously, research has tended to be undertaken by researchers who had expertise in health and psychology.

Irish Independent

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