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HTN Risk Increased for Women Who Experience Sexual Violence

Women who experienced both sexual assault and workplace sexual harassment had highest risk for developing hypertension

TUESDAY, Feb. 22, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Women who experience sexual assault and workplace sexual harassment have an increased risk for hypertension, according to a study published online Feb. 22 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Rebecca B. Lawn, Ph.D., from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues evaluated data from a subset of the Nurses’ Health Study II, which included 33,127 women free of hypertension at the time of sexual assault and workplace sexual harassment assessment in 2008. Hypertension was assessed biennially through 2015.

The researchers found that 7,096 women developed hypertension during follow-up. The prevalence of sexual assault and workplace sexual harassment was 23 and 12 percent, respectively; 6 percent of women experienced both. After adjustment for relevant covariates, women who experienced both sexual assault and workplace sexual harassment had the highest risk for developing hypertension compared with women with no exposure (adjusted hazard ratio, 1.21), followed by women who experienced workplace sexual harassment and by women who experienced sexual assault (hazard ratios, 1.15 and 1.11, respectively).

“These results suggest that screening for a broader range of experiences of sexual violence in routine health care, including sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as verbal harassment or assault, and being aware of and treating potential cardiovascular health consequences may be beneficial for women’s long-term health,” Lawn said in a statement. “Reducing sexual violence against women, which is important in its own right, may also provide a strategy for improving women’s lifetime cardiovascular health.”

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