Objective: To investigate the impact of answering survey questions about experiences of stressful, stigmatizing, potentially traumatic, and sexually violating events on well being, defined as reactions to research, anxiety, and positive and negative affect over 2 weeks. Method: With an ethnically diverse sample of 559 higher education students, we employed a mixed experimental design (with between- and within-subjects components) to evaluate changes in positive and negative affect, anxiety, traumatic stress symptoms, and reactions to research. We used multilevel regression models and planned contrasts to determine which, if any, specific characteristics of the survey questions caused changes in well being by comparing the effects of answering a randomly assigned set of survey questions about stressful, stigmatizing, potentially traumatic, or sexually violating life events across a 2-week period. Results: Controlling for baseline posttraumatic stress symptoms and levels of the outcome, we identified few statistically significant effects between conditions or across time. Significant effects included a small decrease in positive affect immediately after responding to questions about sexually violating events, which diminished at 2 weeks; these same participants perceived fewer drawbacks to research participation. Participants who responded to questions about stressful life events reported greater perceptions of benefits. Conclusions: Our data support the safety of survey research on sexual assault or other stressful, stigmatizing, or potentially traumatic events.
- research participation