The motivation and mental health of sex workers

Chudakov Bella, Keren Ilan, R. H. Belmaker, Julie Cwikel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Commercial sex work presents specific mental health concerns. We aimed to study motivation for sex work and mental health issues in a sample of such women. We contacted 55 consenting women through organized brothels and interviewed them using the Farley questionnaire and screening items for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Eighty-two percent of the women bad arrived illegally and bad been "trafficked." All but 2 were engaged voluntarily in sex work. Seventeen percent met criteria for PTSD, and 19% were likely to be clinically depressed. We present representative case histories. Availability of mental health treatment for workers in the sex industry could improve compliance with HIV prevention programs and enlarge options for women to leave the sex industry. We observed that stereotypes of sex workers as either always having histories of childhood abuse or as being always "happy hookers" were incorrect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-315
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Sex and Marital Therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 24 Jun 2002


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