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Sexual abuse and psychiatric disorder in England: results from the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey

  • S. Jonas (a1), P. Bebbington (a1), S. McManus (a2), H. Meltzer (a3), R. Jenkins (a4), E. Kuipers (a4), C. Cooper (a1), M. King (a1) and T. Brugha (a3)...

Evidence is accumulating that child sexual abuse (CSA) is associated with many psychiatric disorders in adulthood. This paper uses the detailed information available from the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey of England (APMS 2007) to quantify links between CSA and a range of psychiatric conditions.


The prevalence of psychiatric disorder was established in a random sample of the English household population (n=7403), which also provided sociodemographic and experiential information.


We analyzed six types of common mental disorder, alcohol abuse and drug abuse, and people who screened positively for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and eating disorders. All were strongly and highly significantly associated with CSA, particularly if non-consensual sexual intercourse was involved, for which odds ratios (ORs) ranged from 3.7 to 12.1. These disorders were also related to adult sexual abuse (ASA), although the likelihood of reverse causality is then increased. Revictimization in adulthood was common, and increased the association of CSA with disorder. For several disorders, the relative odds were higher in females but formal tests for moderation by gender were significant only for common mental disorders and only in relation to non-consensual sexual intercourse. The population attributable fraction (PAF) was higher in females in all cases.


The detailed and high-quality data in APMS 2007 provided important confirmation both of the strength of association of CSA with psychiatric disorder and of its relative non-specificity. Our results have major implications at the public health level and the individual level, in particular the need for better recognition and treatment of the sequelae of CSA.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Professor P. Bebbington, Department of Mental Health Sciences, UCL, Charles Bell House, 67–73 Riding House Street, London W1W 7EJ, UK. (Email:
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Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
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