The Association Between Exposure to Childhood Adversities and Later-Life Mental Health Symptoms of Survivors of Human Trafficking in Ghana: the Moderating Role of Perceived Social Support
Human trafficking is a significant public health concern affecting approximately 49.6 million people worldwide (International Labor Organization, 2021). The adverse consequences of trafficking extend to individuals, their families, and communities, impacting victims' and survivors' physical and mental health (Zimmerman et al., 2008). This study focuses on understanding the mental health challenges of survivors of human trafficking in Ghana and the impact of childhood vulnerabilities and if social support plays a protective role. This study fills a significant gap in the literature on the mental health of survivors of human trafficking, particularly within sub-Saharan Africa, where very little research exists with this population and trafficking experiences and childhood adversities are culturally unique. The present study used secondary data obtained from the Lifeline in Ghana study. The study sample constituted 98 female survivors of human trafficking who had participated in the Lifeline program between 2010 and 2015. Pearson correlation and multivariate linear regression analyses were performed using SPSS ver 28.0 to assess for the relationship and association between experiences of childhood vulnerabilities (ECV), anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and "process Macro" extension regression models were performed to assess for the moderation effects of Perceived social support (PSS) on the relationship between ECV and these mental health symptoms in this population. Results from the study show significant positive associations between experiences of childhood vulnerabilities and symptoms of depression and PTSD, and social support plays a significant role in reducing depression symptoms. That in and of itself is an important finding because most research on mental health outcomes of survivors of human trafficking tends to focus on their trafficking experiences. But the current study shows that things they were exposed to even before their trafficking experience contribute to mental health challenges. Moreover, the findings suggest several future programming, research, and policy directions.