Details of Publication 475 for Project A156:

Astbury J, Bruck D & Loxton D. Sexual violence as a predictor of sleep difficulties in a community sample of young women (published abstract). Sleep and Biological Rythms, 2010; 8(1): A71

Survivors of sexual violence appear to be at high risk for developing sleep problems. This study investigated the relative contribution made by forced sex ‘ever’ to sleep diffi culty over the last year, adjusting for and compared with the contribution of depression, anxiety, high risk behaviours and low socioeconomic position.Methods: Data analysis related to the cohort of women born 1973–78 who participated in Survey 3 of the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health (2003). The mean age of participants (n = 9061) was 27.14 years (SD = 1.45). The key dependent variable was reported sleeping diffi culty “often” in the last 12 months. Independent variables (IVs) included: (1) Forced into unwanted sexual activity either in ‘the last 12 months’ and/or ‘more than 12 months ago’ (2) Diagnosis or treatment for depression and/or anxiety last 3 years; and ever deliberately harmed/hurt self (3) Demographic variables of marital status, education, occupation and personal income (4) High risk health behaviours relating to drug, tobacco and alcohol use.Results: Valid responses yielded an estimate of forced sex ‘ever’ of 8.7% (724/9043). Hierarchical logistic regression included those IVs statistically significant in bivariate analyses. The high odds (OR = 1.95) of reported recurrent sleep difficulties amongst women who report forced sex in Model 1 (where forced sex was the only IV) become partially attenuated (OR = 1.63) after adjusting for depression, anxiety and self harm (Model 2) and certain demographic variables (OR = 1.52) (Model 3). The addition of substance use in the fully adjusted model (Model 4) further reduced the odds of sleep diffi culty associated with forced sex (OR = 1.48). Forced sex remained a significant predictor of sleep difficulties in the past 12 months in all models. The regression models further suggest that the sleep difficulties of survivors of sexual violence may be embedded in complex relationships with depression, anxiety and self harm, underpinned by socioeconomic disadvantage and potentially exacerbated by illicit drug use.Discussion: Some 9% of this community sample of young women reported forced sex and this group were nearly 50% more likely to report recurrent sleep difficulties relative to those who did not report forced sex. Results suggest that health care providers need to make a careful assessment of any history of sexual violence when young women seek help for recurrent sleep problems.