Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Physical health symptoms reported by trafficked women receiving post-trafficking support in Moldova: prevalence, severity and associated factors

Siân Oram1*, Nicolae V Ostrovschi2, Viorel I Gorceag3, Mihai A Hotineanu2, Lilia Gorceag3, Carolina Trigub4 and Melanie Abas1

Author Affiliations

1 Health Services and Population Research, Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London, London, UK

2 N. Testemitanu Medical and Pharmaceutical University, Chisinau, Republic of Moldova

3 International Organization for Migration, Chisinau, Republic of Moldova

4 PROGenEVA, Chisinau, Republic of Moldova

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BMC Women's Health 2012, 12:20  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-12-20

Published: 26 July 2012



Many trafficked people suffer high levels of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Yet, there has been limited research on the physical health problems associated with human trafficking or how the health needs of women in post-trafficking support settings vary according to socio-demographic or trafficking characteristics.


We analysed the prevalence and severity of 15 health symptoms reported by 120 trafficked women who had returned to Moldova between December 2007 and December 2008 and were registered with the International Organisation for Migration Assistance and Protection Programme. Women had returned to Moldova an average of 5.9 months prior to interview (range 2-12 months).


Headaches (61.7%), stomach pain (60.9%), memory problems (44.2%), back pain (42.5%), loss of appetite (35%), and tooth pain (35%) were amongst the most commonly reported symptoms amongst both women trafficked for sexual exploitation and women trafficked for labour exploitation. The prevalence of headache and memory problems was strongly associated with duration of exploitation.


Trafficked women who register for post-trafficking support services after returning to their country of origin are likely to have long-term physical and dental health needs and should be provided with access to comprehensive medical services. Health problems among women who register for post-trafficking support services after returning to their country of origin are not limited to women trafficked for sexual exploitation but are also experienced by victims of labour exploitation.