Sex work and students: an exploratory study
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Available evidence suggests that changes in the funding of higher education have led to some students entering the sex industry in order to make ends meet. The current study comprises a sample of undergraduates (N = 130) in the south of England, who completed a cross-sectional survey of their financial circumstances, health, psychological well-being, substance use and lifestyle. A response rate of 74% was obtained. Data indicated that over 10% of all respondents knew of students engaged in sex work (defined as prostitution, escorting, lap dancing or stripping) in order to support themselves financially. Poor psychological well-being, drinking problems and financial circumstances were associated with sex work, and although no direct evidence was found linking this to an earlier history of sexual abuse, there was an indirect relationship through the impact of abuse on mental health. A logistic regression model incorporating General Health Questionnaire scores, alcohol problems and hours worked outside of study strongly predicted whether respondents knew of students engaged in sex work. For lap dancing in particular the model was very strong. This study provides further evidence of students' participation in sex work and its association with economic circumstances. Further longitudinal work is required to clarify the nature of these relationships.