Resource Alert: Cross-Sectional Study on Mekong Post-Trafficking Services

By: Sharon E. Chin


Current research continues to support the need for health care services for victims of human trafficking. The Lancet Global Health Journal recently published one of the largest studies exploring the health of men, women and children who have used post-trafficking services in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. Thcanceris study was distinguished by its inclusion of sex and labor trafficking victims from different countries as well as by having a wide age range and various genders (past studies regarding human trafficking and health have principally comprised of smaller groups of women who were sex trafficked).

The study, Health of men, women, and children in post-trafficking services in Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam: an observational cross-sectional study, selected their study population through several post-trafficking services that encompassed clients from different ages, sex, sector of exploitation, and country of origin. Those who were fit to enter the study and recently admitted into one of the post-trafficking services were interviewed. A survey instrument was used to identify trafficked victims’ socioeconomic background, past exposures, conditions experienced while they were trafficked, health, and future plans.

Over one thousand individuals were surveyed and the majority of the respondents were recovered outside of their country of origin (ie. victims were taken from their home country and forced to work in another). China and Thailand were the top two countries trafficking victims from the study were sent to work, and the most common sectors of exploitation were sex work, fishing, and factory work.


While captive, most victims had no weekly rest day and reported living with at least one bad living condition (eg. Overcrowded sleeping rooms, inadequate water for drinking, lack of food, overexposure to harsh weather, etc.). While physical health problems were self-reported, the existence of mental health issues – depression, anxiety, PTSD, attempted suicide within the past month – were much more significant.

Our findings also show that restricted freedom is a core indicator of trafficking and a key risk factor for poor mental health – participants were severely restricted were roughly twice as likely to report symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression as trafficked people who were not restricted. – Kiss, L., et al.

When looking at the link between mental health issues and living conditions, severe factors like working overtime, living in bad conditions, threats, violence, cheated wages and restricted freedom amplified the likelihood of victims suffering from PTSD, anxiety or depression. Physical violence, occupational hazards and threats were more common among men, whereas physical and sexual violence were more common among women. More than half of all victims were not free to do what they wanted.

With such a large and diverse study population, this study was able to identify an array of risk factors that were not previously studied. Most importantly, mental health services for trafficking survivors has been shown to be imperative for long term post-trafficking services.

Cancer InCytes magazine has published articles about the link between childhood physical and mental trauma and disease.
Trauma & Chronic Disease:
Trafficking as a Public Health Problem
Sharon E. Chin is an MPH candidate at Rutgers University and is Social Media Editor for Cancer InCytes magazine. Her interests are exploring social justice issues through public health lenses.

Kiss, L. et al. (2015 Mar). “Health of Men, Women, and Children in Post-trafficking Services in Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam: An Observational Cross-sectional Study.” The Lancet Global Health 3 : 154-61.

Image “P1130755_2” by andrewvitale can be found at:


Resource Alert: Cross-Sectional Study on Mekong Post-Trafficking Services was originally published @ Cancer inCYTES Blog and has been syndicated with permission.

Photo by Key Foster


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