Of the nearly 10,000 adults surveyed, 4.5 percent reported having been stalked at some time in their lives, which extrapolates to more than 7 million women and 2 million men in the United States, say the authors in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Most stalkers aren't strangers, said lead researcher Kathleen Basile, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist with the Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
Women, younger adults and those who are single, separated or divorced are most at risk. That younger adults are more likely to be victims "goes along with what we know about violence in general," Basile said.
African-Americans have significantly lower odds of being stalked than whites, data showed. Basile said the reasons aren't clear, but that there may be differences in how people report stalking.
"Stalking continues to be a public health problem at a magnitude comparable to that measured in 1995 to 1996 [in the National Violence Against Women study]," the new study found.
"Women should be aware of the potential for stalking by an intimate partner, particularly when that intimate partner is physically or sexually violent," said Basile. Previous research has shown that for female victims, current and former spouses and partners are the most common perpetrators.
When men are stalked, it's more likely to take place outside of relationships, by acquaintances or strangers.
Conducted from 2001 to 2003, the telephone survey covered a range of injury-related topics and yielded 9,684 responses almost equally divided between women and men.
Stalking was defined as "ever being followed, spied on or communicated with, without consent, at a level perceived to be somewhat dangerous or life-threatening [not including deal
Contact: Lisa Esposito
Center for the Advancement of Health