Burnout among female indoor sex workers

Arch Sex Behav. 2005 Dec;34(6):627-39. doi: 10.1007/s10508-005-7912-y.


This study examined levels of "burnout" and associated factors among a sample of female indoor sex workers in the Netherlands (N=96). Levels of burnout on 3 dimensions (emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal competence) were assessed. Only sex workers' mean score on depersonalization was significantly higher than that of a comparison group of female nurses and comparable to those of another comparison group of patients with work-related psychological problems. Evidence was provided for the importance of experiential and context-related factors in burnout among indoor sex workers. For instance, 42% of the variance in depersonalization was explained by not working by choice, negative social reactions, experiences of violence, and lack of control in interaction with clients. Depersonalization may be a strategy to cope with negative conditions and experiences in sex work, but was significantly related to indicators of stress and emotional exhaustion. More than half (53%) of the variance in emotional exhaustion was explained by lack of management support, negative social reactions, not working by choice, and negative working motivation. Personal competence was highest among sex workers with a professional attitude, who started sex work at a relatively older age, and who were well supported by colleagues and management. It is concluded that burnout is not as much associated with sex work per se, but with sex work under certain conditions, among which stigma (notably negative social reactions) and stigma-related experiences (such as role conflict, experiences with violence, and lack of a worker-supportive organizational context) are important.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burnout, Professional / epidemiology*
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / psychology
  • Self Care
  • Sex Work / psychology
  • Sex Work / statistics & numerical data*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Women's Health*