Around the world, millions of men, women and children are affected by the illegal trade of human trafficking. Although evidence shows that women who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation experience violence and poor physical and mental health, there is insufficient evidence regarding the health consequences trafficked children, men or individuals trafficked for other forms of exploitation experience, say researchers in the UK.

Furthermore, the public health implications and health consequences of human trafficking, which involves recruiting, transporting, and transferring human beings by force for the purpose of exploiting them, have received little attention worldwide. The study is published in PLoS Medicine.

In this study, researchers led by Siân Oram from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, London, UK, in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, examined studies on human trafficking in order to collect evidence and information on the prevalence of all forms of violence relating to individuals who have been trafficked, as well as the prevalence of mental, physical, and sexual health problems.

The team found that women and girls who had been trafficked for sexual exploitation were frequently physically and sexually assaulted. Furthermore, they experienced high levels of physical, mental and sexual health problems, including:

According to the researchers, higher levels of mental distress may be associated to a longer duration of exploitation.

They explained: “Findings from studies to date indicate that trafficking is associated with serious health problems and suggest that trafficked people are likely to require a coordinated response by health care providers and other support services.”

However, the researchers found a huge gap in research and evidence on the health of trafficked men, children, and those who have been trafficked for forced labor.

The researchers conclude:

“Further research is needed on the health of trafficked men, individuals trafficked for other forms of exploitation, and effective health intervention approaches.

As there is no sign that human trafficking is abating, we need more and better information on trafficked people’s health needs and experiences, including evidence on interventions to mitigate the physical and psychological damage associated with this global crime.”

Written By Grace Rattue