Study outlines impact of child abuse on older men

Friday 15 August 2014 22.33
The study was carried out by the ESRI and Trinity College
The study was carried out by the ESRI and Trinity College

A new study has found that older male survivors of child sexual abuse are three times more likely than other men in Ireland to consider themselves too sick or disabled to work.

It also estimates that survivors live in much poorer-than-average households and are twice as likely as other men to be living alone.

Data for the ESRI and Trinity College study was collected four years ago by Trinity researchers.

Of the 8,500 residents surveyed aged between 50 and 65, one in 15 women and one in 18 men reported being sexually abused in childhood.

The authors calculate that male survivors are three times more likely than other men to consider themselves too sick or disabled to work.

For abused women, the work-related impact is too small to measure, possibly, the authors say, because older women are less likely to be part of the labour force.

The study also estimates that male survivors live in households with an income one-third below average and are twice as likely as other men to be living alone.

One of the authors, Professor Alan Barrett, expressed surprise at the severity of the impact of abuse more than three decades after it was inflicted.

He also said the findings quantify lost income and this could be used when calculating survivors' compensation.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Prof Barrett said: "We're talking to people who are over 50, and the abuse happened when they were under 18, so a gap of 32 years has passed since the abuse occurred and yet we're finding that they're three times more likely to be out of the labour force because they're sick or disabled.

"Those are very large effects by any standard, but the fact that it has been so long after abuse occurred really highlights that it's a life-long sentence."

Prof Barrett said the quality of data used meant that researchers could take account of the effects of depression and anxiety to demonstrate the economic impact on survivors.

He said: "What we found is that childhood sexual abuse has an effect above and beyond the effects of depression and anxiety, so really what this said to us is that what we're dealing with is a very complex set of difficulties that arise as a result, so I'm not at all clear actually that our services are equipped with this very complex arrangement."