Threats during sex work and association with mental health among young female sex workers in Hong Kong

Phoenix K.H. Mo, Winnie W.S. Mak, Yvonne T.Y. Kwok, Meiqi Xin, Charlie W.L. Chan, Louise W.M. Yip

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Young female sex workers (YFSWs) are confronted with significant threats during sex work. The present cross-sectional study examined different levels of threats (i.e., threats to life and health, threats to humanity, threats to control of work and financial security, and the threats to future) experienced by 87 YFSWs (age 16–25) in Hong Kong, and identified their association with mental health (i.e., psychological well-being) together with other factors, including childhood trauma, self-efficacy, hope, and social support. Results showed that the participants encountered a significant number of threats. More than half reported that they had a condom removed by clients during sex (51.7%); or have been humililated by clients (51.7%). Because of sex work, about a quarter (25.3%) have had sexually transmitted disease, and respectively 10.3% and 12.6% have had abortion and unplanned pregnancy. The majority have had friends found out that they engaged in sex work (72.4%). They also showed a high level of worry about the various threats. Multiple linear regression analysis showed that childhood trauma (β = −.26) and worry about threats during sex work (β = −.22) were significantly negative predictors, while self-efficacy (β =.20) and hope (β =.27) were significantly positive predictors of mental health. Future services should improve YFSWs' skills to minimize potential threats during female sex work, address the structural correlates and relieve their worries, and empower them with more hope and self-efficacy in choosing clients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1031-1039
Number of pages9
JournalAIDS Care - Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • childhood trauma
  • hope
  • mental health
  • self-efficacy
  • threats
  • Young female sex workers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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