Timothy Diette, assistant professor of economics at Washington and Lee; Arthur Goldsmith, the Jackson T. Stephens Professor of Economics at Washington and Lee; Darrick Hamilton of New School University William Darity Jr. of Duke University and Katherine McFarland, a recent Washington and Lee graduate, used data on women drawn from three major surveys.
The surveys were "harmonized" so they could be merged, resulting in a sample of 8,109 women. The surveys gathered information on the women's experiences throughout their life, which the researchers divided into four different stages of the life-cycle: adolescence ages 12-17, early emerging adulthood ages 18-22, late emerging adulthood ages 23-29 and early middle age ages 30-45. Analysis for each stage was confined to women with good mental health.
The study, published online in Social Science Quarterly, found 7.7 percent of women reported being stalked by the age of 45. For women ages 18-22, those who experienced stalking, but not sexual assault, had an estimated 113 percent greater odds of suffering their first bout of psychological distress than women of the same age who were never stalked.
However, women who were between ages 23-29 and who are stalked were 265 percent more likely to have mental health issues while those between ages 30 and 45 had 138 percent greater odds compared to women who never faced this type of trauma.
"I think the major implication of our findings is that while not everyone takes stalking seriously because in most cases nothing physical happened, the detrimental impact is clear," Diette said in a statement. "This study helps raise awareness that in many cases it's a really scarring event that causes real-life psychological outcomes for victims' mental health and their ability to function in society."