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Sexual assault, harassment linked to worse physical and mental health among women

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Experiences of sexual harassment and sexual assault could have a significant impact on the physical and mental health of midlife women, a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has suggested.

Sexual harassment and sexual assault are highly prevalent experiences among women, according to the study published in JAMA Internal Medicine,also will be presented at the North American Menopause Society meeting on Friday, Oct 5 2018 in San Diego, CA.

“When it comes to sexual harassment or sexual assault, our study shows that lived experiences may have a serious impact on women’s health, both mental and physical,” said Rebecca Thurston, PhD, professor of psychiatry, Pitt School of Medicine and the study’s first and senior author.

In the study, Thurston and her colleagues analysed the association between a history of sexual assault or workplace verbal or physical sexual harassment and physical and mental health parameters such as blood pressure, sleep, mood and anxiety.

“This is an issue that needs to be tackled with urgency not just in terms of treatment but in terms of prevention,” she added.

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The analysis was conducted among a group of 304 midlife women between the ages of 40 and 60 who were originally recruited as part of a larger study on association between menopause and cardiovascular health.

In the study group, approximately one in five women reported being either sexually harassed or sexually assaulted. Women who were younger or more financially stressed were more likely to be harassed.

Importantly, the study found that assaulted women were almost three times more likely to have symptoms consistent with major depression and were more than two times more likely to have elevated anxiety. Sexual harassment was associated with higher prevalence of hypertension.

Both sexual harassment and sexual assault were associated with a two-fold higher likelihood of poor sleep consistent with clinical insomnia.

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New vaginal ring to prevent HIV, pregnancy is safe: Study

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An experimental vaginal ring designed to prevent pregnancy and HIV looks safe, according to an early stage study.

The ring is designed to provide 90 days’ protection at a time. The dual-purpose ring releases the antiretroviral drug dapivirine and the contraceptive hormone levonorgestrel, said researchers led by Dr Sharon Achilles, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

This small, 14-day trial involving 24 women who were not pregnant and not infected with HIV was the first clinical study of the ring.

“We are very encouraged by our findings in this first-in-human study of the dapivirine-levonorgestrel ring,” said Achilles, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences.

Its use resulted in sufficient levels of levonorgestrel to prevent pregnancy and adequate levels of dapivirine to reduce risk of HIV infection, the researchers noted.

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There were no safety concerns, and the ring was well-tolerated, according to the Microbicide Trials Network study.

The researchers have started a second Phase 1 trial in which women will use the ring for 90 days.

“With a second study underway, we are another step closer to potentially having an easy-to-use product that can provide safe and effective, long-acting protection against both HIV and unintended pregnancy,” Achilles said in a network news release.

The research was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and presented Wednesday (Oct 24) at an HIV prevention conference, in Madrid, Spain.

Research presented at meetings is usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

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