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02-Sep-2015 23:05

When they plugged these variables into a statistical procedure called ‘cluster analysis,’ sex workers clustered into four distinct groups.

Not all sex work is created equal – hustling on the street to feed a drug addiction and having sex in a car or a shady motel by the hour carries different levels of risk and stigma than does advertising online and meeting your clients at a private studio or high-end hotel.

Being forced or pressured into sex work by a dishonest employer, an abusive partner, or dire financial circumstances is different from actively choosing sex work because you enjoy it more and/or find it to offer better perks (e.g., more money, flexible hours) than the other job options you have.

However, sex workers also varied widely in the percent of income that was at their own disposal, from 0 to 100 percent (mean = 77 percent), with only a third having access to the full amount they earned.

Then there was the finding that 45 percent of sex workers reported no desire to quit, and that the single most common reason for doing sex work was “liking the job,” endorsed by 37 percent, while the least common was “being forced,” endorsed by 1.6 percent (for the rest of the reasons, see the graph below.) But for the rest of this piece, let me focus on the mental health issue. The most prevalent disorders were mood (30%), anxiety (34%), post-traumatic stress syndrome (13%); none were diagnosed with schizophrenia or alcohol dependency.

The sample was 53% Swiss, 27% other European, and 19% non-European, and ranged in age from 18 to 63 (mean = 32), in age at first sex work from 12 to 52 (mean = 24), in days working per week from 1 to 7 (mean = 4), and in customers per week from 1 to 60 (mean = 14).

There are many fascinating tidbits of data in this study, like the one that the women’s weekly average income of €1,200 (range from €90 to €6,300) surpassed significantly the average income of Swiss residents at the time, which was only €900.

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These differences are bound to leave different marks on your mental health. S.-based research looks at different mental health profiles across different types of sex workers. In Switzerland, sex work is not illegal, and in 2005 in Zurich, there were about 4,000 legally registered female sex workers.

For this study, researchers recruited 193 of them, contacted through a variety of locations (outdoors, studios, bars, cabarets, parlors, brothels and escort services), and interviewed them at length about their mental health and experiences with sex work.