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Abstract

This article highlights the importance of examining physical and psychological health in the context of youth sexual exploitation by drawing on findings from an empirical research study undertaken between 2006 and 2011. Data were drawn from interviews with 24 sexually exploited young people and 61 professionals working in agencies supporting sexually exploited young people. A sequential mixed-method approach was employed to address the research study aims using interviews and a questionnaire survey.

A significant range of physical and psychological health problems were reported alongside risks to health and barriers to health support for sexually exploited young people. Intentional self-harm and substance abuse were concordant themes from phases 1 and 2. Psychosocial vulnerability factors appear to undermine health and affect health-seeking behavior. Novel themes that emerged from this study included taxonomy of risk behaviors related to health.