Given the underground nature of trafficking, the consequences of trafficking are hidden and difficult to see. Trafficked persons often have limited access to basic necessities such as safety, food, sleep, hygiene, and medical care. The effects of trafficking vary depending on the type of trafficking and the specific situation.

Given that trafficking is based on the exploitation of individuals, all victims of trafficking may be subject to physical, psychological, and social impacts. Victims of trafficking often experience harsh physical impacts due to excessive work or the use of force by traffickers. In addition, victims may be exposed to serious health risks, such as HIV/AIDS, as well as serious mental health risks. Anxiety, insecurity, fear, and trauma are all products of trafficking. Several studies indicate high levels of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in former trafficked persons. Trafficking can also lead to cognitive impairment, memory loss, depression, and even suicide.

Trafficked minors are all the more vulnerable due to their age. Trafficking may greatly impact children’s emotional, physical, and overall psychological development.

Trafficked persons may also experience social ostracism. Trafficked persons are often isolated from their social circles, leaving individuals unable to engage socially or reach out for help. Victims may also be trafficked internationally, and therefore may not be able to engage due to a lack of linguistic capability or geographic and cultural familiarity. Individuals specifically trafficked for sex have described facing stigma and other negative responses during and after their trafficking experience, especially from friends and family members.    

Aside from the impact trafficking has on victims, it also substantially affects interstate and foreign commerce. Trafficking for such purposes as involuntary servitude, peonage, and other forms of forced labor has an impact on nationwide employment and the labor market. Despite being the second most profitable criminal activity, human trafficking impedes national and international economic growth.