The Association of Recurrent and Multiple Types of Abuse with Adverse Mental Health, Substance Use, and Sexual Health Outcomes among Out-of-School Adolescent Girls and Young Women in Cape Town, South Africa

Abstract

Although physical and sexual abuse exposure is a well-established risk for poor health, the dimensions of abuse associated with health among socially vulnerable adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) remain underexamined. This article describes associations between combinations of abuse type and timing with mental health, substance use, and sexual risk outcomes among a sample of 499 AGYW (aged 16 to 19) who had left school early and were recruited for a cluster randomized trial in Cape Town, South Africa. Approximately one-third (33.5%; 95% CI: 28.7, 38.6) of participants reported lifetime abuse. Exposure to more than one type of abuse was associated with increased risk of depression (β = 3.92; 95% CI: 2.25, 5.59) and anxiety (β = 3.70; 95% CI: 2.11, 5.28), and greater odds of polydrug use (OR = 2.10; 95% CI: 1.02, 4.34) and substance-impaired sex (OR = 2.17; 95% CI: 1.31, 3.86). Exposure to multiple types of abuse during childhood/early adolescence and again in late adolescence was associated with increased risk of depression (β = 4.65; 95% CI: 3.15, 6.14), anxiety (β = 4.35; 95% CI: 2.70, 6.02), and polydrug use (OR = 2.37; 95% CI: 1.03, 5.73). Findings underscore the need for trauma-informed interventions that reduce mental health, substance use, and sexual risks among AGYW who have experienced multiple forms of abuse and recurrent abuse.

Myers, B.; Browne, F.A.; Carney, T.; Kline, T.; Bonner, C.P.; Wechsberg, W.M. (2021) The Association of Recurrent and Multiple Types of Abuse with Adverse Mental Health, Substance Use, and Sexual Health Outcomes among Out-of-School Adolescent Girls and Young Women in Cape Town, South Africa. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 18, 11403. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182111403 

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