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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: FGM Harms Mental Health, but Research is Lacking

While the physical harms of female genital mutilation (FGM) are well documented, the mental health research is severely lacking, according to a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) study published in the journal BMJ Global Health.

“About 200 million women are currently living with FGM around the globe and about 3 million girls remain at risk of being subjected to FGM annually — making FGM more common than breast cancer,” says study lead author and BUSPH doctoral candidate Ms. Salma M. Abdalla.

“Yet, unlike other conditions that affect comparable numbers of women, the research on FGM is sparse and rarely well-designed,” she says. “More, and better, research is needed to inform the design of mental health services that cater to the special needs of women who have undergone FGM.”

Ms. Abdalla and study co-author Dr. Sandro Galea, BUSPH dean and Robert A. Knox Professor, reviewed all quantitative studies published in English through 2018 that examined the relationship between FGM and mental health. They concluded that the current body of evidence leaves unclear how severe the mental health consequences of FGM are, whether more severe FGM practices have more severe mental health impact, and which mental health issues are most common.

However, Ms. Abdalla and Dr. Galea wrote, there is certainly enough evidence to show that FGM causes psychological harm.

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