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Psychiatr Serv. 2011 Jun;62(6):639-45. doi: 10.1176/ps.62.6.pss6206_0639.

Comparison of the mental health of female adult film performers and other young women in California.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, 1 Gustave Levy Pl., Box 1620, New York, NY 10029, USA.



This study compared self-reported mental health status and current depression of female adult film performers and other young women.


A cross-sectional structured online survey adapted from the California Women's Health Survey (CWHS) was self-administered to a convenience sample of 134 current female adult film performers via the Internet. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were used to compare data for these women with data for 1,773 women of similar ages who responded to the 2007 CWHS. Main outcome measures were self-reported mental health status, measured with the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey core-instrument quality-of-life questions, and current depression, measured with the Patient Health Questionnaire-8.


Performers reported a mean of 7.2 days of poor mental health in the past 30 days, compared with 4.8 days for CWHS respondents, and 33% met criteria for current depression, compared with 13% of CWHS respondents (p<.01). As children, the adult film performers were more likely to have been victims of forced sex (37% compared with 13% of CWHS respondents), to have lived in poverty (24% and 12%), and to have been placed in foster care (21% and 4%) (p<.01). In the past 12 months, 50% of the performers reported living in poverty and 34% reported experiencing domestic violence, compared with 36% and 6%, respectively, of CWHS respondents (p<.01). As adults, 27% had experienced forced sex, compared with 9% of CWHS respondents (p<.01).


Female adult film performers have significantly worse mental health and higher rates of depression than other California women of similar ages.

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