The harm of contact and non-contact sexual abuse: Health-related quality of life and mental health in a population sample of Swiss adolescents.


The World Health Organization defines child sexual abuse (CSA) as the involvement of a minor in sexual activity that he or she does not fully understand and is unable to give informed consent to, for which the child is not developmentally prepared, that is enforced without the child’s consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society. CSA comprises activities with actual physical contact and without physical contact. Research has shown that CSA is a persistent public health problem across all countries and cultures. The aim of the present study was to assess health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and mental health across contact and non-contact types of CSA in a population sample of adolescents. We expected to find an impaired HRQoL and mental health among youth with a history of any type of CSA, with larger problems being present in contact types of CSA. This study found females to report lower scores than males in most dimensions of HRQoL and mental health. However, this was not specific for victims of CSA: the same sex difference was also evident in adolescents with no history of CSA, thereby confirming epidemiological findings on mental health in adolescence that show a higher prevalence of many mental disorders in girls.