Sexual harassment at work is a ‘chronic problem’ for women and is causing lasting mental illness, warns new research.
Women are suffering anxiety, depression, eating disorders and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being victimised, according to the study.
They are also turning to drink and drugs in order to cope – and have a lower level of overall happiness.
Although most victims are women the number of complaints by men have risen more than 15 per cent in just 15 years.
However, the report found that male victims do not find their experiences as anxiety-provoking, nor do they see it as bothersome, stressful or upsetting as females.
The findings come in the wake of recent sex scandals that have rocked Hollywood and the Houses of Parliament.
Sexual harassment at work is a ‘chronic problem’ that causes lasting mental illness, warn researchers from the University of Texas
Perpetrators include colleagues, subordinates and customers, along with bosses, finds the study.
Report author Professor James Campbell Quick from the University of Texas, said: ‘Evidence continues to suggest women may experience negative mood, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse as well as work turnover intentions, long term anxiety, job stress and or burnout.
‘Sexual harassment is a continuing, chronic occupational health problem in organisations and work environments.’
Earlier this month a survey of 2,000 Britons found one in five women – and seven percent of men – say they have been victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Sexual harassment has also previously been found to cause muscle aches, high blood pressure and diabetes – increasing the risk of heart problems.
The team analysed data from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Fair Employment Practices agencies and found the total number of complaints actually fell 28.5 percent from 1997 to 2011.
Professor Quick said: ‘An interesting find was that the percentage of charges filed by males increased 15.3 per cent; yet, women continue to file the majority of complaints.’
It could be males in the workplace are simply more willing to file complaints given the reduced stigma surrounding it, they said.
‘Even if the gender gap closes in the workforce sexual harassment claims may continue to increase if men feel more threatened,’ he explained.
Organisational climate is a strong predictor of workplace sexual harassment and can include situations where men outnumber women, supervisors are predominantly male and employees believe complaints will not be taken seriously.
The study, published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, said research has shown hierarchical power dynamics are at the root of sexual harassment.
But one other study of men and women in the military found sexual harassment resulted in high levels of depression and anxiety for both men and women.